Ancient Bath House in Laodicea, Turkey
In chapters five to ten the writer makes two important contrasts of his time (1) the high priests of Israel and Jesus Christ the great high priest, and (2) the ritual animal sacrifices of the old covenant and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For the rest of this study we will look first at what the writer says about the high priests of Israel, then at what he says about Melchizedek, then at the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the next study we will look at the sacrifices of the old covenant and the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Lets compare and contrast now the High Priests of Israel to Jesus the Great High Priest…
About the high priests of Israel the writer states in chapter 5 verse 1 ‘For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.‘ and in verse 2 ‘He can deal gently… since he himself is beset (subject) with weakness‘, in verse 3 ‘he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.’, in verse 4 ‘but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.’, in chapter 7 verse 11 ‘Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise‘ – basically they could not mediate ‘perfection‘ established on the basis of the law, in verse 20 ‘For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath‘, in verse 23 ‘The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office’ – basically saying because they died they had to be replaced, many times, in verse 27 ‘to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people‘, in verse 28 ‘For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests‘ – basically they were weak men, in chapter 8 verse 2 ‘a minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle) that the Lord set up, not man‘ – Jesus served in a tent made by God whereas the High Priests of Israel served in a tent made by man, in verse 5 ‘They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.‘ – the High Priests of Israel serve a copy and shadow of what is prepared in heaven, in verses 6-12 the High Priests of Israel served under a faulty and inferior covenant, and in verse 13 ‘In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away‘ – meaning they serve under a now serve under an ‘obsolete’ covenant (remember this is a letter to the Hebrews who are being tempted to go back to this traditional and ritualistic way under the old law).
Lets move onto Melchizedek – First read the Old Testament record of the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Though the writer contrasts Jesus to the high priests of Israel, he also points out to the Hebrews a similarity between Jesus and Melchizedek. Now lets draw our attention to five facts about Melchizedek; in chapter 7 verses 1-2 ‘king of Salem, priest of the Most High God‘ and ‘by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace‘, in verse 3 ‘He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life… he continues a priest forever‘, in verse 4-10 ‘See how great this man was… It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior… One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham‘ – basically they he is stating that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, and therefore greater than Levi, the priestly tribe, in verse 13 ‘For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe‘, and in verse 16 ‘who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life‘ – meaning his role as priest was all based on his conformation to regulations about ancestry
Let’s finish with the Greatest High Priest of them all, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in chapter 4 verse 14a ‘Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens‘ – not just the man-made curtain into the man-made sanctuary, 14b ‘Jesus, the Son of God‘, verse 15 ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.‘, in chapter 5 verses 5-6 ‘was appointed by him who said to him,“You are my Son, today I have begotten you…‘, in verses 7-9 ‘with loud cries and tears… he learned obedience through what he suffered’ – by experiencing the suffering, agony and temptations of man he is qualified as a perfect representative, in verse 9 ‘being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation, to all who obey him”, in verse 10 ‘being designated by God a high priest, after the order of Melchizedek‘, in chapter 6 verse 20 ‘where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.‘, in chapter 7 verse 11 ‘rather than one named after the order of Aaron?‘ – is not named after the order of Aaron, in verse 14 ‘For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests‘ – a tribe where priests did not come, in verse 16 his priesthood is based on the power of an indestructible life, in verse 17 ‘who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life‘ – in the order of Melchizedek, in verse 18 ‘For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness‘ – his priesthood sets the former law aside, in verse 19 ‘(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God‘, in verses 20-21 ‘but this one was made a priest with an oath‘ – his priesthood was affirmed and established by God, in verse 22 because of this oath ‘This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant‘, in verse 24 ‘but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever‘, in verse 25 ‘he is able to save to those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them‘, in verse 26 ‘indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens’ – not needing to offer sacrifices day after day, in verse 27 ‘since he did this once for all when he offered up himself‘ – he sacrificed himself for our sins once for all when he offered himself up, in verse 28 ‘but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever‘, in chapter 8 verse 1 ‘the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven‘, in verse 2 ‘a minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle) that the Lord set up, not man‘ – Christ serves in the ‘true tabernacle‘ set up by God, and in verse 6 ‘But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises‘ – he is mediator of a superior covenant, that was and is founded on better promises.
That’s it for Comparing the High Priests, from the Least to the Greatest of them all. Next study we will be comparing old testament sacrifices to the once and for all sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Thank you and God Bless