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However, Jesus was not eligible for the priesthood because He was not a descendant of Levi (cf. Numbers 3:12-13).
Then, how did we come up with the title "High Priest" for Him if He wasn't even qualified to be High Priest? It begins with a Messianic prophesy hundreds of years before Jesus began His earthly ministry.
If the Jews had known their own Scriptures and not been so offended by the Messiah in their midst, they would have understood the foreshadowing of the Messiah's eternal High Priesthood in the prophecy.
Jesus' Eternal Priesthood
The writer starts with the universally accepted understanding that Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah on the basis of the following:
Notice that the writer here does not call Jesus "High Priest", only "Priest". This is not inconsistent with Jesus' priestly calling in that...
Also, one of the most important words if not the most important word in this verse is the word "forever", which he repeats in Hebrews 7:24. It means...
After the Order of...
Jesus was is Messiah, Son of God, Savior of the World, and God; He's Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Immanuel. And, just in case there's any question about these offices qualifying Jesus as priest, God tells us in Psalm 110:4 that He has appointed Jesus a "priest forever".
Likewise, Jesus was not numbered with the Levitical priests, but like Melchisedek, His ministry was also superior to theirs.
None of the kings of the Jews were priests and no priest was ever elevated to the office of king. But Melchisedek was both as is Christ Jesus. He isn't just a king, but He is both the King of kings and a Priest.
Continuing to build the framework for Jesus as our High Priest, let's look at Hebrews chapter 6. The writer of Hebrews goes all the way back to Abraham to begin making the case for Jesus being High Priest.
14 saying, "Surely in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply you."15 And so, after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
[In the above verses, the writer tells us that God made a promise to Abraham, swearing by His own name, and that after Abraham had been very patient, God gave him what He had promised.] 16 For men truly swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 In this way desiring to declare more fully to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, God interposed by an oath,
[Here, the writer tells us that God made a vow when He wanted to prove for certain that His promise to Abraham's descendants could not be broken.] 18 so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,
[Since God's promises and vows can never be changed, we should be greatly encouraged to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us.] 19 which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil,
[This hope is like an anchor for our souls and has, in fact, gone behind the curtain into the Holy of Holies.] 20 where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
[Jesus has gone there ahead of us, and He is our High Priest forever, just like Melchizedek.]
This passage prepares the way for us to better understand Jesus' position as High Priest. In verse 19, the "curtain", or "veil" as some translations render it, refers to the veil at the entrance to the Holy of Holies.
This is the area of the Temple which only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year during the Great Day of Atonement. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was placed and was considered as a type of Heaven. It's where the presence of God was known to dwell.
The "veil" here is also the same veil which was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died.
The rending of the veil would signify that our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, was about to enter in as the Forerunner and that the way to Heaven was now open to all. Some have even speculated that the fact that the veil was torn from top to bottom implies that God Himself tore it, granting us direct access to Him!
The name "Melchizedek" or "Malki Tzedek" derives from two Hebrew words: malk-i, meaning "my king", and sédeq or tsedek, meaning "righteous".
Melchizedek is first mentioned in Scripture when, as "king of Salem" and "Priest of God Most High" [El 'Elyon], he greets and blesses Abram with bread and wine.
This is the first tithe recorded in Scripture, which by the way, happens to be many centuries prior to God giving the Law to Moses in which He commanded the tithe.
The identity of Melchizedek has been the subject of much debate over the centuries. Some ancient writings claim that "Melchizedek" is a nickname for Shem, Noah's eldest son, who may have survived to this particular time. However, there is no other biblical reference to either affirm or negate that belief.
Some have claimed he was a theophany [visible (but not necessarily material) manifestation of God]; others say he was a literal human being, an angel, or the pre-incarnate Christ. The only explanation Scripture gives concerning this person is in Hebrews 7:2.
Beyond those introductions and a few other scattered references to him, Scripture tells us very little while at the same time, presuming our understanding.
Melchizedek's full identity is one of the wonderful mysteries of the Word of God like Enoch's being "no more", Elijah's disappearance into the whirlwind, and the mysteries surrounding the "Angel of the Lord" that we may not be given to understand until we are face-to-face with our Savior.
As I've been given to say more than once: "The Bible doesn't tell us all there is to know, but it tells us all we need to know."
The High Priest
Instead, let's look at the how the High Priest foreshadowed Christ as our eternal High Priest.
The New Testament Leviticus
details the righteous requirements of a holy God in order for sinful man to fellowship with Him; and
appoints the High Priest as the mediator between the people and God in making inquiries of God and administering the judgments of God.
points out how Jesus has fulfilled God's righteous requirements on our behalf by His sacrifice on Calvary; and
tells us that Jesus is now the one eternal Mediator between God and man.
The Aaronic Priesthood Actualized in Christ
Appointed and Anointed
"Therefore, holy brothers, called to be partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house." (Hebrews 3:1-2 emphasis added)
"And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called of God, as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to be made a high priest, but He who said to Him, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.'" (Hebrews 5:4-5 emphasis added)
I believe the most important distinction about both the Aaronic priesthood and Christ's priesthood is the anointing of God on both.
The High Priest was often referred to as "the anointed priest" or "the priest that is anointed", as he was the only one among all the priests who was anointed on the head with oil.
The oil represented the Holy Spirit and signified that the High Priest was personally appointed or called by God. The oil would stream down from the head upon his beard, then to his robes and skirts, signifying the Holy Spirit's anointing of power and authority over spiritual wickedness.
The Bible says Jesus was anointed, not with oil, but with the fullness of the Spirit for the purpose of conquering the works of the Devil.
This may be the source of confusion for some Christians. After all, Jesus was/is God. So, why and how did He need/receive an anointing that was, technically, already His? The answer to that, although easily discerned in the spirit, cannot be easily explained.
Although Jesus was/is God, He was also man. As a man, He had lain aside most of His divine attributes and submitted Himself to the physical limitations that had become His daily reality. Then, after Jesus submitted Himself to the Father, God anointed endowed Him with the power and influences of the Holy Spirit, so as to be completely qualified for His great work.
"...to the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows.'" (Hebrews 1:8-9 emphasis added)
The Law says the priests must be descendants of Levi, which Aaron was. However, they still could not make anyone perfect. Rather, we needed a priest like Melchizedek who was superior to them.
"...who is made, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life." (Hebrews 7:16)
"...by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant." (Hebrews 7:22 emphasis added)
"Now the sum of the things which we have spoken is this: We have such a High Priest, who has sat down on the right of the throne of the Majesty in Heaven, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Hebrews 8:1-2)
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which was built upon better promises." (Hebrews 8:6 emphasis added)
With this appointment, God Himself made a promise and fulfilled the promise stated in Psalm 110:4 as well as the promise made to Abraham so many centuries earlier (cf. Genesis 22:17).
"...inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for those priests were made without an oath, but this one was made with an oath by Him who said to Him, 'The Lord swore and will not repent, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,')" (Hebrews 7:20-21 emphasis added)
The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses, but God's promise came later than the Law, making Jesus the perfect High Priest forever.
"And they truly were many priests, because they were not allowed to continue because of death;" (Hebrews 7:23)
"For the Law appoints men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the swearing of an oath, after the Law, has consecrated the Son forever, having been perfected." (Hebrews 7:28 emphasis added)
Just as the animal sacrifices and the Lamb of God could have no blemishes (had to be sin-free), so too, the High Priest could have no blemishes (Leviticus 21:17-21). No one or no thing could come or be brought into God's presence with any defect, disability, blemish, or disfigurement of any kind, whether permanent or temporary.
"For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens, who does not need, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice daily, first for his own sins and then for the people's sins. For He did this once for all, when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the swearing of an oath, after the Law, has consecrated the Son forever, having been perfected." (Hebrews 7:26-28 emphasis added)
Our Merciful High Priest
"...you have left undone the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith. You ought to have done these and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23)
"Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23:28)
"Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Luke 11:42)
"Woe to you, lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and you have hindered those who were entering in." (Luke 11:52)
"Therefore in all things it behoved him to be made like His brothers, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of His people. For in that He Himself has suffered, having been tempted, He is able to rescue those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:17-18)
"For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
"...who can have compassion on the ignorant and on those who are out of the way. For he himself also is compassed with weakness." (Hebrews 5:2)
"Having raised up His son Jesus, God sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you away from his iniquities." (Acts 3:26)
"Even He shall build the temple of Jehovah; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne. And He shall be a priest on His throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (Zechariah 6:13)
The High Priest was commanded to marry a wife in her virginity (cf. Leviticus 21:13). Likewise, Jesus is anticipating a virgin Bride.
"These are those who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, as a firstfruit to God and to the Lamb." (Revelation 14:4)
"...nor by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered once for all into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:12 emphasis added)
But Christ's sacrifice permanently removed the punishment for, power of, and stain of sin.
"...so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. And to those who look for Him He shall appear the second time without sin to salvation." (Hebrews 9:28)
"For the Law which has a shadow of good things to come, not the very image of the things, appearing year by year with the same sacrifices, which they offer continually, they are never able to perfect those drawing near. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because the worshipers, when they had been once for all purged, would have had no more conscience of sin." (Hebrews 10:1-2)
Eternal Assurance of Faith
"Therefore, brothers, having boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies having been washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22 emphasis added)
In this chapter, the writer of Hebrews summarizes the line of reasoning he has been pursuing in the previous chapters. The writer has already demonstrated that Jesus was not of the Levitical order, but of the order of Melchizedek. As such, His Priesthood surpassed the Aaronic priesthood in respect to permanency. But more importantly, it involves a dramatic change in the nature of the promise of God to His people.
[This is a bold declaration of the pre-eminence of our High Priest. To sit in the throne is to possess sovereign power and dominion. Christ now enjoys in Heaven the very highest degree of exaltation.]
2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One have something to offer also.
4 For if indeed He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the Law,
5 who serve the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was warned of God when he was about to make the tabernacle. For, He says "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the mountain."
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which was built upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been without fault, then no place would have been sought for the second.
He Goes Between
Melchizedek was appointed "Priest of God Most High" . . . by God. And this well before Levi was even born, let alone him and his descendants being appointed by God to the priesthood! And yet, the Jews recognized Melchizedek, not only as "High Priest", but as a High Priest superior to the Levitical/Aaronic priesthood!
Therefore, when the writer to the Hebrews said Jesus was a "high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek", he was acknowledging that Jesus, the Son of God, was and is eligible for any priesthood, anytime, anyplace, and in any way He wants to be!
Melchizedek was the only Priest who was also a king. Jesus Christ is the only "King of kings" who is also our High Priest! He is "King of kings" . . . "Lord of lords" . . . and "Priest of priests"!"