God's Provision to Come into His Presence

Jesus – God's High Priest of a Better Covenant

– Hebrews 7

 

In the fifth book of the Bible, the last book of the Pentateuch, we find the inspired words, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). We are not always ready to receive revelation from God. This is due to where we are at in our walk with Him. Spiritual immaturity prevents us from receiving all God has for us. And there is a natural progression to God's revelation.

God has to teach us "the elementary principles" of His truths before He can take us "on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). There are first parents before there are offspring. There are patriarchs before there is a promise. There is a Exodus before there is a wilderness, and a wilderness before there is a Promised Land. There is agitation and aggravation before there is rest. There is a historical record of the futility of sinful humanity to save itself in their own strength before we can truly understand the gracious faith-based gospel of Jesus Christ. There is an Old Testament before there is a New Testament. We must learn to roll over, then sit up, then crawl, and toddle and walk before we learn to run. That is true of children. That is true of us as spiritual children too.

God is patient with us. He walks us through the stages of growth from sinner to saved and from saved to sanctified life by His prevenient grace and the help of the Holy Spirit. But there comes a time when we need to graduate and progress from "milk" to "solid food" (Hebrews 5:12-14). What we will be introduced to in the rest of Hebrews is some solid spiritual food.

At the end of Hebrews chapter six the "hope we have as an anchor for our soul" is affirmed. This hope will anchor us; it will keep us from drifting away. The reason for that is it is a hope that is "both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19).  Entering into and living in the presence of God is the great theme of this epistle.

"Presence " is capitalized because it refers to the Holy of Holies or the innermost sanctum of the Tabernacle and Temple, where God made His "Presence" known. Because the presence of God overwhelms all other things this Holy of Holies was often simply referred to as "the Presence."  

Entering the "Presence" of God and doing so "boldly" or confidently is an incredible blessing. Whenever we need help, with confidence (not irreverence), but securely, warmly, in love, we can come, "to the throne of grace , that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). That is a magnificent promise of God provided by Him through Jesus Christ. There is no greater promise and no greater gift God could provide to us than making a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin and live eternally with Him in His presence.

Jesus is the One by which it is made possible by God for a sinner to be forgiven and made acceptable to come into the presence of God. The last verse of Hebrews 6 states that regarding this "Presence" that Jesus was "the forerunner" Who "has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20). We can enter the Presence of God and live there as we follow Jesus the forerunner.

In the Old Testament there is a mysterious priest named Melchizedek. This figure and Jesus are connected in Hebrews 7. Melchizedek is unique and it's important we understand Who He likely is. This would have aroused the curiosity of the Hebrew recipients. And when we look further we will see how important this figure is.

Hebrews 7 (NKJV)

7 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,

Who was Melchizedek? We are first introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 where Abraham is returning from a rescue mission to save his nephew Lot. On his return Abraham was met by Melchizedek. Scripture records:

·       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; 20And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

Melchizedek came out to Abraham with "bread and wine." This is our first clue as to the identity of Melchizedek. Do we know Anyone else with which "bread and wine" was used in a significant way? That's right, Jesus introduced the memorial meal with the Passover the night before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23).

Melchizedek blessed Abram noting that Abram was "of God Most High." Melchizedek connected Abram with the God Most High of the Bible. Melchizedek identified God Most High as "Possessor of heaven and earth." This speaks to the sovereignty of God Most High. Melchizedek blessed God Most High and attributed praise and credit to Him for delivering Abram's enemies into his hand.

Abraham then  "gave him [Melchizedek] a tithe of all." By giving a tithe to Melchizedek Abraham was recognizing and accepting the priestly position of Melchizedek. By giving a tithe to Melchizedek Abraham was acknowledging his position as king and priest. Giving a tithe was a part of worship. People weren't to give God a tenth of their income haphazardly. They were to give with their heart, worshipfully. Cain and Abel are an example of how the heart in giving is just as important as the object given (Gen. 4:3-5). We honor God when we give (Proverbs 3:9-10). The wise men honored Jesus with gifts (Matthew 2:11). Abram was honoring Melchizedek and God with his tithe.  

It should also be mentioned that the idea of disregarding tithing (or giving a "tenth" of income) because it is "legalistic" would seem to be countered here since when Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek it was 400 years before the Law was given.

After this meeting with Abraham, Melchizedek isn't mentioned again until Psalm 110, a Psalm of David and a Messianic Psalm announcing the reign of Messiah. this Psalm states:

Psalm 110

A Psalm of David.

1     The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

2     The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.

Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

3     Your people shall be volunteers

In the day of Your power;

In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,

You have the dew of Your youth.

4     The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.”

5     The Lord is at Your right hand;

He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.

6     He shall judge among the nations,

He shall fill the places with dead bodies,

He shall execute the heads of many countries.

7     He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;

Therefore He shall lift up the head.

 

This is a Psalm promising and depicting the final victory of Messiah. It expresses the highest regard of God for Messiah by stating Messiah was to be seated at His right hand and that He was "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." This is significant because God does not speak of Messiah being a priest according to the Aaron or the Levitical priesthood, but of this mysterious priest Melchizedek.

The name "Melchizedek" means literally king of righteousness. He was an interesting and mysterious figure in the Old Testament. He was the "king of Salem" which is an early reference to being the king of what came to be Jeru-Salem or Jerusalem. " Jerusalem is called the city of the Great King."[1] Therefore we might say Melchizedek was King of the Great King.

Melchizedek was also the "priest of the Most High God." This is unique and would be problematic to Hebrews hearing this or reading this word. That's because the Law forbade one man to be both king and priest. A man could be a king and a prophet like David or a priest and a prophet like Aaron but they could not be a priest and a king. King Uzziah, who instituted revival in the kingdom overstepped his boundaries seeking to be priest in God's Temple. When he did that God struck him with leprosy (cf. 2 Chronicles 26). But Melchizedek was both the king of Salam and priest of the Most High God. Hmmm, interesting.

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,” 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.

Who was Melchizedek? He was respected and recognized as a priest of the Most High God of Abram. Notice it states, "to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all." Abram gave him, Melchizedek, the tithe. It doesn't say Abram gave a tithe to God Most High, but to Melchizedek.

Melchizedek is referred to as "king of righteousness." A Messianic title is "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:16). Jesus, as Messiah, has the title of being "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). When Melchizedek appears on the scene in the Old Testament he is "without father, without mother, without genealogy." This would be the case if Melchizedek was indeed a Christophany or pre-incarnate Christ.

Melchizedek is further described as "having neither beginning of days nor end of life." This is just like Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, the First and the Last (e.g. Rev. 1:8, 11, 17).

Melchizedek is specifically referred to as, "made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually." That seems to be a pretty clear connection of Melchizedek with being a pre-incarnate Jesus. Pastor Chuck Smith in the Word for Today study Bible notes comments:

            There are some who see Melchizedek as a type of Christ; interpreting v. 3 to say that his            family remains anonymous in order to enhance the symbolic connection to Jesus. Others   take the most literal meaning, that Melchizedek had no genealogy because he was Jesus   Christ Himself, in a Christophany, and that He had always existed. This would seem to be        the most obvious and clear interpretation.

            He is called the "king of Salem," which could be a reference to Jerusalem, where Jesus   will rule and reign. But it also means "king of peace," which He certainly is. He is called the "Prince of Peace" In Isaiah 9:6. The name Melchizedek means "king of             righteousness," and this certainly also describes Jesus.

            In two different passages in the book of Jeremiah, the Messiah is referred to by the name   Yahweh-Tsidkenu, which means "Yahweh our righteousness" (Jer. 23:26; 33:16). Also in            John 8:56, when Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day and saw it, this could        easily be a reference to when Abraham saw Jesus in the form of Melchizedek.

            We can't be dogmatic concerning the identity of Melchizedek; but whether he was Jesus   Himself, or just a type of Jesus, the point here in this passage is that there is a higher priestly order than the Levitical order and that Jesus is of the superior order of             Melchizedek, which predates the Levites. Thus, Jesus is eminently qualified to serve as         our High Priest. [2]

There is truly only One "king of peace," and that is Jesus the Prince of Peace. There is truly only One who is the "king of righteousness," and that is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, Jesus.

Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.

 

Even though Abraham lived 400 years before the Law was given he knew intuitively to give a tithe or a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek. And the fact that the patriarch Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe indicates the greatness and authenticity of this priest and his priestly line.

 

And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

 

The issue being addressed here to the Hebrews is Could Jesus be our High Priest if He did not come from the tribe of Levi? This was an important issue to the Hebrew. Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah and priests came from the tribe of Levi. Is there a basis to consider Jesus our High Priest even though He didn't come from the tribe of Levi? That is what is explained here.

 

It states, "without contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better." The superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek (to which Jesus belongs) to that of the Levitical priesthood is being established. Since Melchizedek blessed Abraham, Melchizedek is "better" than Abraham. And, since the Levi and the priestly line was "in the loins of his father," then they too are blessed by Melchizedek and therefore lesser than the priest Melchizedek.

11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?

If "perfection" or completion of the purpose of the priesthood were through the Levitical priests, then God would not have spoke of Messiah Jesus as rising in the order of Melchizedek.

12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

The Levitical priesthood was introduced in the Law of Moses. If another priesthood is revealed by God then it indicates a change in the Law.

13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Melchizedek is spoken of as the priest of the Most High God. Messiah Jesus is referred to by God the Father as "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." Yet neither were connected to the priestly line of Levi. Therefore, Jesus, our Great High Priest, is priest "not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

The Law of the Old Covenant "made nothing perfect." Therefore there is an "annulling" (Greek athetesis) or a putting away, abolishing, rejection of, nullification of the "former commandment." This is because of the "weakness" (Greek asthenes) or lack of strength, feebleness, impotence, sickness, weakness, and "unprofitableness" (Greek anopheles) or uselessness, unprofitableness of the "former commandment." The only thing the Law is powerful in doing is clarifying and exposing the inability of human beings to keep it in their own strength.

 

The critically important point is now made here to the Hebrews, some of whom may have been contemplating a return to their Old Covenant ways. The Old Covenant of Law is therefore to be replaced "on the other hand," by the, "bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." The Law and keeping the Law is a powerless, weak, feeble, impotent and in the end sick way of trying to come into the presence of God. The Law profits us nothing and is useless to bring us into the precious presence of God. But thanks be to God there is a "better hope, through which we draw near to God."

20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”), 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Wow! Look at this. Paul is saying here that Jesus was "not made priest without an oath." Jesus was made Priest with an oath from God! - "The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." No Levitical priest became a priest with such a heavenly endorsement. Levitical priests became priests by virtue of their simply being from the tribe of Levi. Jesus was made Priest with the firsthand, clear and undeniably endorsing oath of God the Father. That is an incredibly powerful endorsement in God's word (Psalm 110:4) and by God Himself and shows the absolute superiority of the Priesthood of Jesus over that of the Levitical priesthood.

 

Truly "by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant." "Surety" (Greek eggyos means  a pledge, a limb offered as pledge. Jesus Himself, is the "limb offered," in pledge to the superiority of His Priesthood. He is the reason that the New Covenant is a "better" (Greek kretton) or stronger, nobler, more advantageous, more excellent, superior, better, best "covenant" than the previous Old Covenant. The New Covenant is not merely another covenant it is a superior better covenant. A "covenant" (Greek diatheke) is a a contract, testament, a disposition, arrangement, a covenant.

 

23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.

 

The Levitical priests died and therefore there was a continuous succession of priests and a constant changing in the priests. The Talmud states there were 18 Levitical high priests before the destruction of the first Temple and over 300 before the destruction of the second Temple. In the Levitical line of priests there were many priests. But in the line of Melchizedek there was only One, Jesus. Jesus is our Dependable and Familiar High Priest. We don't have to worry about getting  a new unfamiliar high priest when we come to Jesus. Jesus is "unchangeable" (Greek aparabatos) or not passing away, untransferable, unchangeable, High Priest. Jesus will always be there for us when we seek Him out.

 

Jesus alone is worthy and qualified as High Priest today. There is a priesthood of believers generally as Christians go to God on behalf of others and to others as ambassadors of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Peter 2). But there is no longer a basis or reason for people to necessarily go to God through anyone other than Jesus. We can go directly to God through Jesus; no one else. It is a shame and misrepresentation when the church sets up priests as a kind of blockade to the throne of God. We are all priests by virtue of our saving relationship to God in Christ. There are no other steps or obstacles to God. Remember that because God has torn the curtain of separation from top to bottom, He has removed all obstacles to enter and live in His Presence. This is the incredible "uttermost" of salvation provided in Jesus. This is something any Hebrew would understand and it was an incredible blessing. What is just as incredible is that apparently some of these Hebrews were so quickly losing sight of this incredible blessing of Jesus our High Priest of a better covenant.

 

25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

 

Because of all of the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus, He is able to save "to the uttermost" (Greek panteles) or to the fullest extent, to the entirety, completely, perfectly, uttermost extent. This will be an ongoing theme in Hebrews from this point on; that the priesthood of Jesus and the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant and as such, it would be foolish to return to the old ways.

 

Jesus is our unchangeable and constant High Priest, we can always "come to God through Him." The idea here is not that Jesus is praying for us constantly. Jesus is not making intercession for us so much with His words as He is with His wounds. [3]The scars in Jesus' hands and feet and side are all the evidence the Judge needs to pronounce a "Not guilty" to all who repent and believe in Jesus.

 

In a courtroom lawyers stand to present their case to a jury before a judge. They present their case and then when they are finished they notify the judge saying "the defense rests" and sit down.  Jesus has presented His case on the cross. The cross is the basis for the perpetual eternal forgiveness for everyone who believes in Him. That is why the letter of Hebrews opens with the magnificent inspired words: "who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Heb. 1:3). Jesus has made His case. His defense for us has rested. And we can rest in Him. When we approach the throne of grace to find help in time of need, we can rest assured we will be given forgiveness and grace because Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.

 

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

 

The high priests of the Levitical priesthood were not "Holy" (Greek hosios) which means undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, pure and holy. They were not "harmless" (Greek akakos) or not bad, innocent, harmless, without guile or fraud, free from guilt. They were not always "undefiled" (Greek amiantos) or unsoiled, undefiled, free from what deforms or debases. They were not "separate from sinners" but were themselves sinful, less than holy, harmful to others and defiled by the things of this world (v. 26). Not so Jesus! The Levitical priests had to offer sacrifices for themselves and then for the people because of their sin (v. 27a). Jesus offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for all - "For this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (v. 27b; cf. also Hebrews 5:3; 7:27).

      Thus, Jesus completely fulfills the picture and the type of Aaron’s priesthood [cf.             Hebrews 5]. But He is represented more fully in the Melchizedekian order.

 

      Why is this important?

 

      Because every one of you is relating to Jesus in one of those two ways.…

 

      Many people relate to Jesus only as the fulfillment of the Aaronic priesthood. And what    they see is this: a Man who became like us, who laid down His life for us, who did not       choose that position for Himself but only sought to glorify the Father and to obtain our       salvation through His sacrifice for us. And for them, that’s as far as it goes. They do not       understand that Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the Aaronic priesthood, but that He is    Melchizedek. Melchizedek’s ministry is not to obtain salvation. It is to maintain             salvation. That is why Jesus ever lives to make intercession (Hebrews 7:25).

 

      The Melchizedekian order is a ministry of maintaining my salvation based upon His             wounds—and it’s a done deal. That means that as I drive home tonight, and I have             something I need to pray about or a promise I wish I could claim, I don’t have to say, “I can’t claim this promise because I haven’t prayed with the kind of intensity I should,” or,     “I can’t pray now because I haven’t read my Bible in three months.” No, I can simply      say, “Jesus continues to save me because His ministry is intercession based upon what He once offered, upon the wounds He now has. There’s no discussion about my worthiness. I   am free. I am completely and totally free.”

 

      Aaron’s line was always busy working, always pleading, always sacrificing. In the             Melchizedekian order, however, there’s nothing more to be said, nothing more to do. It    was done once and for evermore when our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, offered             Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.[4]

Under the Law high priests were weak because they were fallen men. But Jesus, High Priest by God's ordained oath, which came after and replaces the Law, "has been perfected forever." Jesus' atoning sacrifice is totally sufficient and fulfills all that is required for the person who desires to come into the presence of God. To that all we can say is "Glory!" and "Thank You Lord!!!"

 

 



[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1477). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Chuck Smith, The Word for Today Bible, (Costa Mesa, CA: Word for Today, 2012), p. 1586.

[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1479). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1480). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.