Lesson 18: "This is the Sum [Conclusion]" (Hebrews 8:1)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome again! This is lesson #18. Are you ready? In ch. 7, our writer reviewed several points relating to David's prophecy concerning the Messiah, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (taken from Psalm 110:4, which was David's figure and prophecy of the Messiah as we have said). In 7:15 (here), the writer said: "after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest," i.e. Christ, "Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." Now, this has to do with the office, i.e. the priesthood aspect. In our writer's shadow-type symbolism, Christ is our High Priest in the Christian dispensation of time, sitting in heaven on the right hand of God, right now. But, you must not think of Christ as a Mosaic high priest. The writer goes to extreme to make this point. Because, when those people in and around Jerusalem heard the term "high priest," it was natural for them to think in terms of the Mosaic high priest down at the temple, there in Jerusalem, from a physical point of view still in existence. However, from a spiritual point of view, the office had been abolished, or to say it more correctly it had fullfilled it's course. But, Christ was/is a high priest after a new order, NOT the Mosaic order. Perhaps Christ as a high priest has more similarities to the order of Melchizedek than it does to the order of Aaron. There is a "similitude," that's the word used in v. 15, or we would simply say there is a reasonable comparison in some respects. However, our writer, in these verses of ch. 7, primarily emphasizes the difference(s), i.e. the points by which the priesthood of Christ is NOT like the priesthood of Aaron was; thus, demonstrating and verifying that the priesthood of Christ is different...completely different. The ways in which these offices differ exalt the Christ...very much so. The priesthood was changed (v.12). Look at that close! As a result of this change, God's law, i.e. the rules by which we now live has changed accordingly. Can this be said any plainer than it is said (in v.12)? This thought is repeated in v.18, "there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before." From the time of Aaron until the Mosaic system was fulfilled or ended, i.e. at the time of Christ's death on the cross, AD 33, Milligan says 67 high priests had successively served or held that office...I did not take the time to try to count them; our text simply said: "they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death" (7:23). But, the O.T. is partly organized and partly arranged around those Mosaic high priests that served a few years and then died the way of all men. In contrast to that, the priesthood of Christ is "after the power of an endless life" (end of v.16)...i.e. Christ "continueth ever" (v.24). That's another way of saying (in David's words): "Thou art a priest for ever after order of Melchizedek." The new law and the new priesthood by which we now draw nigh unto God gave us a better hope...a more perfect hope (that's v.19). Christ's priesthood was made by an oath in contrast to the Mosaic high priests by which nothing is said with reference to an oath. The writer is here (in v.20) referring to God's oath to Abraham (back in Gen. 22:16) which our writer had just touched on you will remember (Heb. 6:13ff). Those Mosaic high priests also had disease, pain and passions like all men, i.e. they had "infirmity" is the word used (in v.28). However, in contrast to those Mosaic high priests, our High Priest, Jesus the Christ, now sitting on the right hand of God, is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinner, and made higher than the heavens" (v.26). Quite a contrast! Beyond that, the Mosaic high priests offered or were responsible for offering animal sacrifices at the temple daily (v.27), day after day, year after year; however, Christ offered one sacrifice...a better sacrifice. . .once for ever. Now, all of this was said, keep in mind, for the benefit of those who desired to go back under the Mosaic law...those who longed for the temple...and longed for having a high priest over them. To do such would have been retrogression, i.e. going backward to a more inferior system no longer valid.
Now, beginning in ch. 8, here in our text, our writer summarizes the thought and content of his review, i.e. he gives a sort of bottom line statement as to some of the details of his thesis, just reviewed, i.e. that Christ is OUR High Priest. In doing so, he shifts the emphasis to the ministry of Christ and the new covenant. Actually, this is a sort of sub-total, if you will; because, this is not the end of his review with respect to all details of his shadow-type symbolism growing out of this writers descriptive comparison of the two covenants involved. However, before we read these verses at the beginning of ch. 8, let me say, down about v.6 (here) the writer digresses from his review of details to show that this is not inconsistent with O.T. prophecy...in fact, it fulfills O.T. prophecy to the letter. That digression consumes the rest of ch.8, and then at the beginning of what we call ch. 9, our writer returns to his shadow-type symbolism and pushes his review of detail(s) for a more extensive analysis (which actually carries us someplace down into ch. 10). But, right now, let's read his summary statements at the beginning of ch. 8. We'll read down through v.5...are you ready? Here we go! Beginning in 8:1, let's read:
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount."
O.K., now, let's focus on two or three things here, and then we'll move on. First of all, don't forget (in v.1), this is a review, "this is the sum" of the things which have already been said. If you did not clearly understand the writer's illustrations, thoughts and reasoning in ch. 7, here is the bottom line as an accountant would say. Here is the thought he has presented and that he wants us to get, repeated, reviewed, restated, summarized. The writer's thesis is, his most important point is: that in Jesus Christ, "we have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (that's the last part of v.1). Now the "Majesty in the heavens" (capital letter) is a reference to God, our heavenly Father. The word "throne" there is a reference to God's throne...i.e. that great figurative desk or bench from which God operates in the heavens, beyond our view. Our Saviour, Christ Jesus is now part of and operating from that same throne at God's right hand. "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," (I-John 2:1). Christ is entered into heaven ITSELF "NOW to appear in the presence of God for us..." (Heb. 9:24). "He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:25). There was an occasion in the O.T. where Moses, once (Ex. 32:11) interceded on behalf of his people and saved his people in that Moses was able to persuade the Lord to repent of the evil which God thought to do unto his people back there (Ex. 32:14). Now, the point is, Moses done this once; but, Christ "ever liveth to make intercession" for us (Heb. 7:25). "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by. him" (same verse, 7:25). To save to the "uttermost" means to save for evermore. Christ is our High Priest. This is the thinking, the HEBREWS writer wanted our brethren (and his brethren) in and around Jerusalem...this is the thinking he wanted them to get back there in the AD 60's. And, this is still the thinking we must have in the 20th century, also.
Christ, there in heaven (at this moment), is our High Priest; but, don't confuse this with the priesthood of the Mosaic system...it's a different system. The Mosaic system was an "example and shadow of heavenly things" (v.5). Did you get that? An example is a parallel or has comparable resemblance to the theme being discussed, just as a shadow carries with it scale, shape and resemblance of the object that cast that shadow; but, the object that cast that shadow and the shadow itself are two distinct different things. They are related only by certain lines of sunlight. There was/is a line of thinking in which Aaron's ministry and Christ's ministry were/are related. If I might inject my own personal thinking... it is easier for us in the 20th century (in a way, ...i.e. having no personal contact with the literal Jewish temple that then stood there in Jerusalem), it's easier for us' to see this in it proper perspective (perhaps) than it was for those people living in and around Jerusalem at that time; because, they were literally living in the very shadow of that old Mosaic temple, just down the street. They were engulfed in it. Their economy and their society was dominated by that old Jewish temple and it's high priests in the AD 60's as it had been for centuries. What is being said is, both Aaron and Christ were high priests (and Christ still is)...i.e. supervising ministers of God. Aaron and those that followed him as the Jewish high priests down to the time of Christ were MINISTERS of the tabernacle, that old tabernacle built by the hands of the Israelites back there in the wilderness of Sinai (recorded in the last half of Exodus), i.e. men pitched that tent or that tabernacle back there in the wilderness (as is said here in v.2)...which ultimately was changed to a permanent structure known as the temple there in Jerusalem you understand. However, even that old tabernacle (or temple, which ever you prefer to say) came from God in the sense that God gave the pattern by which it was to be built. Christ is a minister of the sanctuary, that heavenly sanctuary, now in heaven, somewhat like: Aaron and his successors were ministers of that old sanctuary or temple that still physically existed then in Jerusalem, just down the street. However, Christ is the minister of a different sanctuary, a heavenly sanctuary, "the true tabernacle" (v.2) if you will.."which the Lord pitched, and not man" (end of v.2).
Now, in v.3-4-5, (this is still part of the writer's summary..."this is the sum", v.1), the writer in v.3-4-5, shows that the high priest function of both Aaron and Christ have similarity (also), as you would expect. Both Aaron and Christ were ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices (v.3). Now, the gifts and sacrifices offered by Aaron and by Christ differ remarkably. Aaron and his successors ("those high priests," it says 7:27), offered sacrifices (i.e. animal sacrifices on an altar) day after day for the entire Mosaic dispensation of time...1500 years. Christ on the other hand offered one sacrifice, i.e. "he offered up himself" (end of 7:27). This offering, Christ did once, forever. Do you get the contrast? Even though there are similarities between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Christ, the writer is trying to give you a feel of the great difference. . .the great contrast between the two. Christ is our "great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens" (Heb. 4:14). And, I don't want to jump a head; but, our writer is going to repeat this point again, more than once, in this book. For example starting in 9:11, our writer says those offering "stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." And, the discussion continues there...we'11 get to that, I trust! However, you see, those high priests in Jerusalem served "unto the example and shadow of heavenly things" (beginning of v.5, here in our text, the point is made over and over). Christ is the real thing, the Mosaic system was only a. shadow (do you get it?) "THE example" is the phrase used here (in Heb. 8:5). However, even the shadow, i.e. the Mosaic system, was according to a pattern...God gave that pattern to Moses in Mt. Sinai (end of v.5). There is still a pattern. Christ "hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much more also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (that's v.6, the next verse, if you'll put your eye on it). Don't miss that word "now" (N-O-W, at the beginning of v.6). Alright, this is the "sum" of what our writer said he wanted us to see with reference to his Melchizedek discussion that consumed all of chapter seven. This is the conclusion he wanted us to get. And, he is very meticulous to make his point.
Now, in v.6 down through v.13 (i.e. the rest of ch. 8), the writer does somewhat of a digression as I have said and then continues in ch. 9 with his discussion where he broke off (back at the end of ch. 7). This is a very logical digression, if I might call it that, i.e. it is still connected to the overall thought. It has to do with continuity. Lest someone think this change in priesthood, this change in covenant and the better promises mentioned here (in 8:6) were a mere evolutionary development that simply happened with no forethought; the writer shows this is definitely NOT the case. This was part of God's plan all along and this was foretold with great precision by the prophets of old. In other words, all of this is simply an unfolding of prophecy. This aspect, this angle, puts real teeth into the writers thesis. By this prophetic connection the O.T. and the N.T. are cemented together with a reinforcement that eliminates the element of chance happening being misinterpreted and misrepresented. It thus, "bears witness," Jesus would say. Now, we're not going to have time to read this section in this lesson; but, you need to see its significance. Here is an assignment, please read what Jesus said in John ch.8, beginning in about v.30 and reading through the rest of that chapter. Please read that before we start our next lesson (i.e. lesson #19). Jesus said, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true." In other words, YOU are obligated NOT to accept mere self-proclaimed prophets. We are commanded to test the spirits (I-John 4:1). It is the scriptural way to recognize and distinguish true prophets from false prophets. If you believe Moses, then you must believe Christ (John 5:46) for Moses wrote of Christ. It is this continuity of scripture that makes it possible for you to know what is true and what is false. It takes a little effort. Please read what Jesus said and ponder that before we start our next lesson. I'll be with you in lesson #19, until then, have a good day!