The High Priesthood of Jesus
It is evident that not a few today are not satisfied with Jesus, his person, status, and Sonship. This is apparent in view of all the cults, demoninations, and extant human creeds (cp. Matt. 16: 16, Jn. 6: 68, I Cor. 1: 10-13, Matt. 17: 5). Lack of appreciation of Jesus is also manifest in the high drop out rate regarding those who cease to live the life of the Christian (Matt. 13: 3-23). However, such is not new (Heb. 12: 12-14, 10: 26, 27). One way the writer of Hebrews attempts to stabilize those to whom he wrote and to prevent their apostasy is by emphasizing Jesus. Jesus is God's spokesman (Heb. 1: 2, all references are to the book of Hebrews, unless otherwise stated); the exact representation of the Father (1: 3); the Creator (1: 2); he is better than angels (1: 4); and he is, " the Son over his own house," unlike Moses (3: 1-6). Another way in which Jesus is magnified in Hebrews is by the presentation of the High Priesthood of Jesus.
The High Priesthood of Jesus is a biblical fact. The High Priesthood of Jesus is stated repeatedly in the Book of Hebrews, beginning in chapter two, verse seventeen (see 3: 1; 4: 14; 5: 5, 10; 6: 20). Consider the certainty of the language:
"17: Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2).
The High Priesthood of Jesus is made abundantly certain by the oath God took. In regards to the Levitical priests in general, God did not take an oath. However, pertaining to the High Priesthood of his Son, he did; thus, removing all doubt as to Jesus' High Priesthood. Notice the " called of God" and then the oath:
"10: Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec . 21: (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 Melchisedec:) 22: By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament" (Heb. 5 and 7).
The High Priesthood of Jesus is not always an understood and appreciated subject, then or now (5: 10, 11). Jesus' Priesthood is indicative of a better covenant and promises (7: 22, 8: 6-13). This was a powerful point in view of the Hebrews considering going back to Moses to find justification. The High Priesthood of Jesus necessitated a change in the Mosaic system (8: 4, 7: 11-17). Jesus could not have been a high priest on earth according to the Levitical or Aaronic order. This is precisely what the writer meant when he wrote:
"For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" (8: 4).
The function of the High Priest. The duty of the high priest is seen in many places in the Book of Leviticus. One of the chief duties was to enter into the most holy place once a year and offer atonement for his sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16: 15. The Book of Hebrews, which is often called a commentary on the Book of Leviticus, is replete with the duties of the high priest (8: 3, 9: 6, 7, 2: 17). In brief, the high priest sought to reconcile the people with God (2: 17). At a glance, the High Priesthood of Jesus is significantly different from the Levitical High Priesthood.
Instead of the blood of animals, Jesus offered his own blood as atonement (9: 12-14). This was singularly important in view of who Jesus was and the fact that the blood of animals could not completely address the issue of sin (Matt. 26: 28). Regarding the inability of the blood of animals to expiate sin, please consider the following:
"1: For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2: For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3: But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4: For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5: Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7: Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10).
The High Priesthood of Jesus differs from the Aaronic order in that Jesus entered into heaven itself rather than just the material most holy place (9: 24). Jesus' offering of himself was so utterly complete that it was a one-time offering (9: 25-28).
Some modifiers applied to Jesus, the High Priest. Adjectives are of great importance as they explain, qualify, and show the qualitative nature and decree of nouns, in this case, the High Priesthood of Jesus. Notice some of the modifiers: "Faithful" (2: 17); "merciful" (2: 17); "The High Priest" (3: 1); "Great High Priest" 4: 14); "Jesus the Son of God" (4: 14); "another" ("another" is from the Greek heteros, indicating a qualitative difference, 7: 11); "holy" 97: 26); "harmless" (7: 26); "undefiled" (7: 26); "made higher than the heavens" (7: 26); and, "Set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (8: 1).
While there were some good high priests after the order of Aaron, none could measure up to the foregoing adjectives and descriptive terms.
The High Priesthood of Jesus is after the order of Melchisedec. It is of great importance that the reader realize that the priesthood of Jesus is after the order of Melchisedec. Again, the High Priesthood of Jesus being after the order of Melchisedec and not Aaron is repeatedly stated in Hebrews:
"Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec" (5: 10, see also 5: 6, 6: 20, 7: 15, 17).
Regarding Melchisedec, please consider the following information regarding this great man, a man whose priesthood served as the prototype for the High Priesthood of Jesus:
"1: For this Melchisedec, 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 by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3: 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. 4: Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils " (Heb. 7).
Melchisedec in his priesthood was similar to Jesus and his High Priesthood in that it was not documented and did not follow an established protocol such as was the case regarding the priestly order of Aaron. One of the greatest men mentioned in the Bible was Abraham and, yet, even Abraham is seen acquiescing to Melchisedec (Ibid.).
The two primary ways in which the High Priesthood of Jesus was after Melchisedec and not Aaron was, first, it was "endless" (7: 15, 16, 24). There is not a lot revealed in the Bible relative to Melchisedec and his priesthood (Gen. 14). Notwithstanding, Melchisedec was not evidently subject to the same restraints as the order of Aaron. The fact of the "endless" nature of the priesthood of Melchisedec does not mean he remains on earth today, but simply that his priesthood is continued and consummated in the High Priesthood of Jesus. The second major way in which the High Priesthood of Jesus is after Melchisedec is seen in Genesis 14: 18:
"18: And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God" (Gen. 14)."
Notice the fact that Melchisedec was both king and priest. Having this in mind, please consider the following prophecy regarding Jesus:
"13: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6).
Jesus was to be both King and High Priest and appreciate that this Kingship and High Priesthood was to be concurrently experienced, just as in the case of Melchisedec (Gen. 14: 18). In other words, if Jesus is now High Priest, he is also NOW King. I stress this point in view of many premillennial teachings that advocate Jesus is presently Priest, but not presently King. "Jesus' kingly reign does not begin until he returns to earth," say they, "at that time, he will occupy David's throne in Jerusalem." They want Jesus to be High Priest but they want to defer his Kingship so that they can have an earthly King. Premillennialism with its attendant later reign of Jesus as King not only denies the High Priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchisedec but it also denies plain prophecy. Consider the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding any reigning of David's throne after Coniah:
"28: Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? 29: O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. 30: Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jere. 22).
To insist on Jesus returning to earth and physically reigning on David's throne is to have a man reigning in Judah after Coniah. Jeremiah said it would not be and history verifies this fact. Yet, Premillennialism says Jesus shall reign in Judah following Coniah. This is but one problem with the physical reign of Jesus as taught by Premillennialists (see addendum).
Beloved, Jesus is now High Priest and King. Both his High Priesthood and Kingship are spiritual. Remember that if Jesus were on earth, he could not be a priest (Heb. 8: 4).
Jesus' High Priesthood offered much encouragement to those spiritually faltering Christians and such a truth should be rich in encouragement for Christians today. (To read a generally related study, click on "A Study of Priests")
Addendum: When Peter presented the gospel in its fullness for the first time, Jesus is set forth as then reigning as King and having the throne of David (Acts 2: 22-36). Jesus is presently King of kings and Lord of lords (I Tim. 6: 15). Hence, in view of Premillennialism presenting Jesus' reign as King as being a physical rule on earth, they essentially reject Jesus being High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. Since he is to concurrently be both King and High Priest, he could not be a King, were he on earth, because of Jeremiah's prophecy. If Jesus later physically becomes King on earth in rejection of the prophecy pertaining to Coniah, as some claim he will, then he must cease being High Priest, because he cannot be a high priest on earth (Heb. 8: 4). Therefore, one of the most encouraging truths (High Priesthood) regarding Jesus is laid aside in order to defend and embrace the anti-biblical doctrine known as Premillennialism.