Lesson 16: "This Man [Christ]. . .Hath An Unchangeable Priesthood." (Hebrews 7:24)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome again! This is lesson #16. In our last lesson we got down through the end of chapter six. In- v.20, the last verse in ch. 6, our writer in the language of the old Mosaic system, said: our High Priest, i.e. Jesus, "the forerunner is for us entered," i.e. entered "into that within the veil." Now, that is said in what I would call shadow-type or type-antitype language. If that illustration does not come through to you clearly, I suggest you take the time (right now) to get the thought as the writer presents it. Now, those people in and around Jerusalem in the AD 60's had no trouble at all with this figurative language; because, they understood the old Mosaic system. Many, if not most of them, had been born into that system, i.e. those age 30 or over were born before pentecost. They understood the makings of the temple, that tent-like structure called the tabernacle in the O.T. (this is discussed in great detail in the book of Exodus ch. 20's and ch. 30's) and that structure ultimately became a permanent structure in Jerusalem called the temple (at the time of Solomon...if you want to read about this a good place to start might be at the beginning of II-Chronicles). In II-Chron. ch. 3, it starts by says: "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah..." That temple had been destroyed and rebuilt a couple times over the years; but, it still existed in the AD 60's, on Mt. Moriah, as one of the prominent land marks there in Jerusalem, one of the seven wonders of the world at that time on that very piece of ground called Mt. Moriah (it is said) that Abraham offered Issac (going back to Gen. ch. 22). But, as has been pointed out before, that temple came to its end, i.e. it was destroyed once and forever by the Romans in the fall of AD 70. One of the best and most detailed accounts of this is in a book called Josephus, a history of that period written by a Jew who defected to the Romans at that time, i.e. during that war. Jesus prophesied this destruction of the temple in Matt. ch. 24 and said not one stone would be left upon another that would not be thrown down. This was prophesied 37 years before it happened. And, of course, it happened just as Jesus said it would.
However, the Christians in and around Jerusalem in the AD 60's, i.e. at the time of the writing of the book of HEBREWS, understood the temple structure there in their city and they understood the background going back to David and Solomon. Thus, this figurative language (in Heb. 6:19-20) was very meaningful to those people. I wish I knew what to say to make it as meaningful today. The HEBREWS writer shows the old Mosaic system was a figure of the Christian system, i.e. every type had an antitype, if you will. Or, just as an object in sunlight casts a shadow, the Christian system is the real thing and the Mosaic system was a shadow of that which was to come, figuratively speaking. The shadow came before the real object. That may seem a little awkward to you at first. But, have you ever stood beside a building and saw a shadow coming around the edge of the building before the object itself actually appeared? Maybe, the object (in our illustration now) was a person; maybe a car or dog or something else. Well, that's sort of what we are saying...that's the idea of this shadow-type language used here. If you observe a shadow coming and you focus-in and study that shadow (i.e. from the shape and outline of the shadow) you can get a rough idea of the object that is casting that shadow, that is coming around the corner in our illustration. The length of a shadow depends upon the time of day, of course, and all of that has to be taken into account, the position of the sun and all of that. However, if a man carrying a stepladder casts a shadow and you see that shadow before you see the man; then, you can probably identify the object from the shadow before the man with his stepladder actually appears. Right? Now, the HEBREWS writer actually uses this word "shadow" a couple times (Heb. 8:5 and Heb. 10:1). In the chapters coming up (ch. 7, ch. 8, ch. 9, part of ch. 10), the HEBREWS writer goes into a. rather deep and detailed comparison of the old Mosaic system as compared to the new system, i.e. the Christian system, i.e. comparing the shadow to the real thing. His comparison is figurative on the basis of this shadow-type thinking; but beyond that, his comparison is a very spiritual discussion. It is a very pertinent discussion. It may not come through to you at first; however, this writer by this method of discussion is able to draw upon the informational background of his readers in such a way as to cover much more thought in a lot fewer words. He doesn't have to bump around and bang around and hem-haw like I'm doing right now, trying to get focused-in, you see. When our writer made a shadow-type comparison, i.e. comparing the old with the new, his readers in the AD 60's made the connection forthright and immediately; because, the O.T. was simply ingrained into their vocabulary like tying your shoes. It was simply a part of their everyday speech and their everyday thinking. There was an association with their diet, the naming of their children and grandchildren. Their history and their destiny was flavored and seasoned with (what we would call) O.T. symbolism. Thus, for us to easily decipher and comprehend what is said here, we must first have a very thorough knowledge of the O.T. itself. Therefore, all of us need to allow for a good bit of research time here.
Now, this shadow-type language does not simply begin here in ch. 7, it has been employed (to some degree) from the very first chapter. However, in the next three or four chapters, this shadow-type thinking is greatly intensified. That's the reason I'm fumbling around here dwelling on this point. It's not just a good story, good Sunday school stuff, or a sit-com (as they call it on TV). This is serious business. It can slice right down between the thoughts and intents of your heart, remember? (Heb. 4:12). This has to do with where you came from, why you are here and where you are going. This is an inspired writing; it's not just entertainment. When you begin to take it serious, it is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is more relevant and more applicable to your life than this morning's newspaper. Old Testament prophecy and its N.T. connection is presented here with a real bottom-line conclusion that might even make your toes curl back a little. So, please give it a little research time, understand the message for us. It's worth your time. O.K., now, I think I've done myself in. I have spent so much time setting the stage, I don't have time enough left to present the play (so to speak). However, before we begin reading at the beginning of ch. 7; we may as well take the time to make it good. Our writer began in the very first verse (or two) of this book to contrast the Mosaic dispensation of time with the dispensation in which we live, i.e. the Christian age. In time past God spake by the prophets; but, in these last days God hath spoken UNTO US by his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ is the brightness of God's glory. He is the express image of his person. He made the worlds and he upholds all things by the word of his power. By himself, he purged our sins. Now, all of this is said in the first three verses of this book. Jesus is greater and higher than the angels. He is the Captain of our salvation (2:10). This man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses (3:3). Figuratively, Jesus is our High Priest..."the High Priest of OUR profession." (Heb. 3:1). Now, what is our "profession?" What is our "vocation?" Do you remember Paul's statement to the Ephesians? The "vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph. 4:1) is that we are Christians, i.e. followers or servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, or citizens of His kingdom (to say it another way). But, Christians have been baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27). Christians are not just worldly people. We have taken on a vocation, we are servants of the Most High. Thus, we have a profession. Peter said, "ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people" (I-Pet. 2:9). Peter is talking about Christians, baptized believers, the blood bought family of God. He is not talking about worldly people. We are, thus, as Christians a priesthood, as Peter said. In this shadow-type terminology of HEBREWS, we (as Christians) are "a royal priesthood," i.e. comparing or interpreting the Christian system in light of that shadow cast by the old Mosaic system. Every Christian is a priest. Christ is our supervising High Priest (in this analogy). You see, Christians are blood bought children of God and Christians are professionals (spiritually speaking). They are priests, they are not just worldly people. Christians have a duty to do. They are supervised by Jesus the Christ (our High Priest) through the New Testament delivered through the Holy Spirit. Our duty is defined in these very pages. Now, the Christians in and around Jerusalem in the AD 60 had lost this aspect of their Christianity. Do you see this? But, when you start using parabolic language (as the writer is here doing), there are always a few elements in a parable that does not fit. Or, to put it another way, certain aspects have to be redefined or (in other words) explained to maintain continuity. Thus, our writer is quick to explain that Christ was not (is not) a high priest after the Mosaic system in this shadow-type thinking. You see, priests of the Aaronic priesthood were of the tribe of Levi. The high priest back then was always a descendants of Aaron (the brother of Moses). O.K. this aspect does not hold (in the figurative, parabolic, type-antitype, shadow-type language used here). Christ is our High Priest; but, not a high priest after the old Mosaic system (or order), you must understand. That angle is redefined. Christ is our High Priest in a higher system and a newer system. Or to put it another way, Christ is a supervising High Priest to those of us who are called Christians. Thus, the writer is meticulous to redefine this term at this point. The writer is not saying that Christ is of the Mosaic system, the writer cautiously and painstaking points out that our Lord Jesus Christ is a High Priest after a different order (lest somebody be confuse, befuddled or mislead by the terminology here),. So, to keep continuity, our writer follows the figurative suggestion made many years before by David (Psalm 110:4) that Christ is a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek ...i.e. in contrast to the order of Levi and Aaron (you see). We have already been introduced to this figure, you will remember (back in Heb. 5:6). Thus, our writer repeats this figure (here at the beginning of ch. 7) and uses this as a springboard to enter into a deeper and more detailed discussion of spiritual things, covered mostly in type-antitype terminology. Now, occasionally when something does not fit naturally into the writer's terminology (like the Priesthood of Christ example, we have just been talking about) our writer usually takes the time to points this out. For example, in Heb. 9:5 our writer says: "of which we cannot now speak particularly." Take the time to put a eyeball on that! In other words in that verse there is not a type-antitype comparison from the Mosaic to the Christian dispensation, just like the order by which Jesus is our High Priest does not fit the Aaronic priesthood.
O.K., maybe I've overdone this; but, the next 3 or 4 chapters can generate some erroneous concepts if you are not clear on this. Alright, are you ready? Let's read! Beginning in Heb. 7:1 and we'll read down through the end of chapter seven. A long reading, 28 verses. He starts by a very thorough discussion of the Melchizedek figure. Please read with me! But, before we read, let me tell you this. That's all the time we have. By the time we read this our time will be out. So, we'll pick up here next time with our usual discussion. Are you ready? Let's read! Here we go!
"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; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who received the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek:) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for ever." Would you read it another time or two? I'll be back in lesson #17...have a good day.