We want to know what God’s testimony is; we want to know God’s thoughts, to have the mind of Christ, and be taught the things of God by the Spirit of God. We do not want to entertain preconceived human ideas – human wisdom or the wisdom of this world. And here we must be careful, because holding to human perceptions and building a case for our thoughts by manipulating enough scripture, as we are often guilty of doing, is an easy road to follow.
Much of our biblical scholasticism and intellectualism simply amounts to our efforts to judge God’s word. Do we not realize that when we judge God’s word we are judging God? Rather, we must always go to God’s word to be enlightened by God’s thoughts, thoughts that we, with peace of spirit and soul, know correspond to the mind of Christ. This requires the intimate involvement of the Holy Spirit as the teacher of all truth and the revealer of the things of God. I sincerely believe that a large part of the institutions of higher learning in Protestant Evangelicalism have greatly failed in following these sound biblical guidelines (I Cor. 1:17-2:16). Instead we have substituted human experience, human effort in scholarship and intelligence, for the role the Holy Spirit was to fill in our Christian education. We have become dull to the presence of the Spirit, both as inhabiting the church and also living in the believer. And if we are dull to His presence, than we will be dull in seeking His various ministries on our behalf. What we desperately need today is divine teaching. To this end I submit this short article on Jesus, the Melchizedek priest.
Generally speaking, all priesthood is mediatorial – it is the representation of the weak and infirmed before God. In order to have a discussion of the priesthood of Christ, what it is and what it does, and for whom it has its representation, there are a number of scriptures we will have to consider. What we need to also keep in mind is that biblical priesthood has two characteristics: priesthood has a given order, and then each order has its distinctive function. This is the topic of investigation of this article. If we some clarity on these two characters, it will help us to put away preconceived thoughts and perceptions, which so often we eventually find have no basis in God’s testimony.
Psalm 110:4 (NKJV)
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
Christ’s priesthood is the order of Melchizedek. This is confirmed in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 5:5-10 (NKJV)
5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”
6 As He also says in another place:
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”
7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”
The other priesthood that is significant in scripture is the Levitical priesthood, and more specifically the order of Aaron (Heb. 7:11). This is the priesthood that came with the giving of the law, and therefore is associated with the Jewish religion. Among the Levi the house of Aaron performed the tabernacle services. However, the service of Aaron’s house came to an end with the sins of Eli and his two sons (I Sam. 2:22-36). David sets up Zadok to be priest (II Sam. 15:27). He and the prophet Nathan anointed Solomon king. When Solomon built the temple its service was performed by the house of Zadok (I Kings 2:35). The tabernacle had passed, and now there would be a permanent structure for worship and the practice of Judaism. This corresponds to the change of houses in the Levitical service during David’s time. Also then, it is Zadok’s family we see serving in the millennial temple (Ez. 44:15). This is interesting in the types and shadows involved in these events. The millennial priesthood is established by Solomon, who is a type of Jesus Christ, son of David sitting on David’s throne, reigning in peace as king over all Israel. Solomon’s temple is the shadow of the future millennial temple, which will also be built by the son of David. Aaron’s order is associated with the tabernacle; Zadok with the temple. Aaron’s service and the tabernacle have many types associated with the church; Zadok’s service and the temple have types that only point at Jewish things during the future millennium. But this is not my subject.
We have identified the two existing orders of priesthood – the Melchizedek and Aaronic. Now let’s identify the function of each. Just as the two orders are distinct from each other, we find so is their service. For the Melchizedek service we go back to Abraham.
Genesis 14:18-20 (NKJV)
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.”
The function of the Melchizedek order does not involve sacrifices, death, or the sprinkling of blood. It is not one of constant intercession because of weakness and infirmity. Rather, the Melchizedek service is only for blessings, after the defeat of all enemies. It is a priesthood for joy and rejoicing in physical blessings and provisions – he brought out bread and wine. Melchizedek represents the God Most High in the blessing of Abraham. The Most High is known as the Possessor of heaven and earth.
Hebrews 7:1-3 (NKJV)
“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”
Melchizedek is a royal priest – king of Salem (peace). His name also translates as king of righteousness. He has no known genealogy. He has, as it seems, no beginning or end. He is like the Son of God, having a continuing priesthood without interruption. We see that all here is used as a type pointing to Jesus Christ. But we need to be more specific than this. Melchizedek, as a type, points to Jesus Christ as a royal priest sitting on the throne of David, bringing physical blessings to Israel during the millennium, after the defeat of all their enemies. In this story Abraham is a type of Israel. The Most High God defeats all Israel’s enemies, and then His representative on earth – Jesus, Israel’s Melchizedek priest – brings out during the millennium abundant blessings for Israel. Righteousness and peace will be the two main characteristics of Christ’s millennial reign. And it will not be until then that the Most High will be known as the Possessor of the heavens and earth. Everything from the passage in Genesis points to the Jews saved and restored at the beginning of the future millennium. All the types and shadows from the story point there. And the function of this order of priesthood is millennial.
What does this tell us about what Jesus is doing now? Well, it does tell us how He is a priest – God has called Him as a priest forever,“according to the order of Melchizedek.”(Heb. 5:5-10) And God has sworn it by an oath (Heb. 7:20-21). So Jesus is in fact a priest, according to this eternal order. But He certainly isn’t functioning today according to the service of the Melchizedek order – He isn’t on the earth restoring Israel in physical blessings, we certainly aren’t in the millennium, and we haven’t seen the defeat of all Israel’s enemies.
Today, at this present time, with Jesus is at the right hand of the throne of God, He is High Priest only for the Christian believer. Hebrews tells us that “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle…” Not the Jewish tabernacle on the earth, which only amounted to copies of what was real and true. Our High priest is in the heavens. All our Christian associations are with a Christ in the heavens and a Christ in glory. They are not with a Christ on the earth or in the flesh.
What He does today in His service is not for Israel at all. At this present time God does not acknowledge the Jews as His people (Hos. 1:9). Israel has been set aside and made desolate (Matt. 23:37-39). The kingdom of God was taken from them (Matt. 21:43). They have been in this state for some time.
What is He doing as High Priest for the believer?
- He ever lives to make intercession for us, thereby securing our salvation to the very end (Heb. 7:25)
- He is able to aid us who are tempted, seeing He Himself suffered, being tempted (Heb. 2:17-18)
- He is a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15)
- Through Him we boldly come to the throne of grace in time of need (Heb. 4:16)
- As our High Priest He became the Forerunner for us entering into the holiest place in the heavens, behind the veil and into the Presence, making our Christian hopes of following Him sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19-20)
- Jesus deals on our behalf in the realities of Christianity, not in the copies and shadows of Judaism (Heb. 8:1-5; 9:11-12; 9:24)
- Having such a High Priest we have the privilege of drawing near and close to God (Heb. 10:19-23)
This service is the function of the Aaronic order – constant and ongoing intercession for our existing weaknesses and temptations. It is intercession that maintains our communion and fellowship with God – our nearness to Him. It is priesthood involved in keeping all believers at all times secure in their salvation. His presence at God’s right hand as our High Priest gives us confidence and boldness to approach God. More than this, eventually it will allow us to live in the presence of God.
How can Jesus function like the service of Aaron’s order? Well, if He was on the earth He couldn’t, for there are priests according to the law, and He is from the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:11-14; 8:1-5). But He isn’t on the earth, is He? No, He is higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:25-26; 9:23-24). And He appears in the presence of God for us, that is, all true Christians, all believers. (For a more detailed discussion on priesthood read Blog Post #7)