The old is going to pass away, the point in Hebrews 7, and is replaced by the new. The author has injected the strongest warning against sluggishness of mind and the deadliness of unbelief. Then, he encouraged his listeners by saying he is fully confident they do belong to Christ, and that they are recipients of Christ’s blessing. The author saw that they had a living and working faith. God was doing something in them, therefore, showing outside of them biblical and spiritual fruit.
We know, so far, once the truths of knowing you are a believer, knowing God’s spirit is in you, knowing you bear fruit, and that God is working on you, gives you a firm stance as a Christian that you can overcome the doubts and uncertainties of life, and encourages the “press-on” in life with confidence in your salvation. Confidence, not because you had anything to do with it, but confidence that Christ called you to it, and you responded by the working of God’s spirit on you and you became a believer. God began to change you, and that gives you great confidence that your position before the God of heaven is secured. It is anchored in God’s inner sanctuary, protected by a high priest, who is continually in God’s presence, and that is, Jesus Christ, himself.
With all that preparation, that is where the author has brought the audience so far. He moves them ahead. He pulls them out of their spiritual sluggishness, and moves them closer to understanding what God has done. He points them to Jesus Christ as great high priest, one like Melchizedek. He begins to unpack the Son’s typological relationship with Melchizedek. We have seen, so far, Christ greater than the prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, and Aaron – the first high priest. Now, we come to a sensual chapter, in all the book of Hebrews, that displays Christ as greater than the Levitical priesthood. Why is that important?
In the old testament, God gave two proper ways a person may have access to God. In other words, God gave a way for sinners to receive His mercy. Mercy is God’s provision for sinners to escape the punishment they deserve for their sins. God’s holy, they’re sinners. God is just and righteous. He must hold them responsible for their sin, but God says, “I have mercy”.
The mercy was found in two places. The first proper way was through the law – to learn the law, what God wants and doesn’t want you to do, and to obey the law. Along with the law, the second proper way to have access to God was through the priesthood, the sacrificial system. We saw, in the Old Testament, the real problem was, and is, the two proper ways to have access to God were ineffective. In what sense were they ineffective? The law was weak, useless, and unable to make anything perfect. Hebrews 7:18-19:
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The priests were weak, imperfect, sinful, and they died. It had to go from one priesthood to another priesthood, or from generation to generation. As things went on, the priests got corrupt and the law got pushed to the side. The world got in and it became twisted and convoluted. Therefore, the priests weren’t perfect either. Also, the sacrificial couldn’t make anyone perfect. Bottom line, the law, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system could not give a person continual access to God, in turn, making that person right before a Holy God. The design of the law was to magnify sin, thus, separating us from God. Therefore, all the efforts and sacrifices offered by the priests could not restore the lost relationship with God completely. This was only temporary and a picture of what was to come.
Hebrews 7 argues that we need a new and different priesthood, with a new and effective sacrifice. As believers, they needed a priest that could give them constant access to God that would make them perfect with God. If the sacrificial system or the priests could not provide them with access, then there is a dilemma. The Old Testament method of providing for God’s people did not produce holiness in them, or perfect anyone eternally.
Constantly, people tell me, “Well, you know, Pastor, no one is perfect.” In one sense, they are right, and in one sense, they are wrong. In one sense, we all must acknowledge that we all have sin and come short to the glory of God. On the other hand, saying no one is perfect is to cover up their own failure to obey as a believer. Somehow, we think that by saying, “no one is perfect,” is an excuse to cover our moral lameness. However, Jesus is in the business of perfecting sinful people. This is what His high priesthood is all about. Jesus’ death has paid for all our sins, and in God’s presence, right now, He is praying for us.
When we confess our sins and our failures to God, He offers forgives through Jesus Christ. Confession, forgiveness, and repentance is the process through which God perfects imperfect, sinful people. The perfect sacrifice of Christ, His Godly character, and permanent prayers can take weak, sinful people and move them toward God. Even though, in this lifetime, we will not become perfect, we will, and are promised, to become perfect in God’s presence, or we will not make it there. We will be perfect because our Heavenly Father is perfect.
Prison fellowship is a ministry working among prison inmates that provide inmates and parolees service encouragement, bibles, opportunity to hear the gospel, and an opportunity to attend worship services. In one prison, in the state of Delaware, there was no chapel. Churches in the area gathered together to raise money to build the chapel, which was built by the inmates. To some of the inmates who became believers, the chapel that was built represented God’s invasion of a prison with the purpose for righteousness. One volunteer, Jim, says, “When I was around believers working with me, I felt them caring for me.” He shared, movingly, what Jesus meant to him. Though they were in prison, he and his brothers were free. As he controlled his emotions, he quoted John 8 and thanked the local churches for supporting the building of the chapel. In fact, Jim, was serving a life sentence without parole.
So, Jim, wasn’t a perfect person, was he? Jim was a sinner, and his sins landed him in that facility for the rest of his known days. However, he found Christ, and Christ changed his life. Christ took him and molded him into something he could have never been molded into on his own. The power of God’s spirit and his word worked on this man, and now, he was rejoicing as a free man even though imprisoned. We have, in Christ, a savior and a high priest who can take imperfect, sinful people and lead them to holiness. Christ prays for us, offers forgiveness when we come to him in confession, and when we confess to him and repent of our sins, He is eternally available to offer His encouragement and support. So, we have Jesus, a priest who can take us in our sin and imperfection, and make us what we should be, which is holy unto God and heading for heaven in the presence of a Holy God.
In Hebrews 7, we come to this mysterious character, Melchizedek, a king priest. The bible describes Melchizedek’s character as arriving and disappearing on the scene. The first example of his coming on the scene is in Genesis 14: 18-20:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19He 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.” He gave him a tenth of all.
In this historic record, this high priest is presented as a priest in benediction. Meaning, there is no alter, no sacrifice, or any duties. He is performing at none of those things, and he does not come before us as a sacrificing priest. He comes before us as a blessing and a proclaiming priest. One who proclaims victory and is ministering to one who is still here, and Abraham is kept from falling as he gives a blessing. That is, God, whom he is worshipping, is aiding Abraham in his ordeal. What was his ordeal? In Genesis 14:9 and 12, Abram, the king of Sodom, is defeated by a coalition, and Lot is taken captive:
9against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch kind of Ellasar – four kings against five.
12They also took Lot, Abrams nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.
Leading up to this passage of scripture, Abraham is an authority figure in the land and viewed, in some ways, as a king. In Genesis 14:13-14, an escapee brings news of Lot’s captivity to Abraham, who in turn takes his trained men to rescue Lot. In Genesis 14: 15-17, Abraham defeats Lot’s captors, rescues him, his people, and his possessions:
Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people. 17Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then, when he is coming back from defeating these kings, Melchizedek shows up right before Abram. He is identified as the priest of God Most High. Melchizedek comes before all priesthood, as a servant of the true and living God, in the word of God. Meanwhile, Abraham refuses to accept any gifts from the king of Sodom because he made an oath with God that he would not take anything from any king, lest, anybody should say they made Abraham rich since all the richness came from God himself. Then, God reassures Abraham in a vision that he was going to have a great nation. However, he did not have any children at the time since both him and his wife were barren. Genesis 15:2-4:
Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”
In other words, Abram will be the father of many people, or nations. God gives him the promise of many descendants. Then, Abram believes Gods promise in Genesis 15:6:
Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
As a result, God makes a covenant with Abraham where he takes animals, cuts them in half, puts them on the side of each other, and walks through the middle of them., an example of the greatest view of a covenant where they walked through the animal shedding blood. Thus, the covenant being sealed by blood.
Now, there is a second place where Melchizedek shows up, in Psalm 110:4, but he shows up one-thousand years later in scripture. He shows up this time in a prophetic context whereas his first appearance was in a historical context:
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Here, we are reminded that the promises to Abraham is secure because of God’s oath. God made an oath of having a priest in the order of Melchizedek. In this passage of scripture, Melchizedek shows up to indicate that he will be a priest forever, so he is going to trump, in some way, the ironic priesthood. He is going to be over it even though he is before it ever happened. If we look at him, another thousand years later, he shows up again. Hebrews 5:5-6, 9-10:
So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”, 6just as He says also in another passage, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. 10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
So, here are the three times we see Melchizedek mentioned in scripture, and in each segment, it is very short. The information about him is very little. In fact, from scripture we can glean several things from him. Why is Melchizedek so important, yet we don’t hear anything about him anywhere? Melchizedek is being displayed in scripture as someone very great, and, in Hebrews 7, we see five expressions of greatness concerning Melchizedek. First, the greatness of Melchizedek is expressed in his status and his name. Hebrews 7:1-2:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2to who also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.
His very name tells us something about him. The Hebrew word for king is “melch” and “zedek” is righteousness. Immediately, we see that this individual is a king of righteousness and king of Salem. Salem is the place where he ruled, which means peace. For example, Jerusalem means the city of peace. We see two things that come together in this man: he is righteous and where he reigns as the righteous king, there is peace. You cannot have peace unless you have pure righteousness. When you have pure righteousness and justice being carried out, there can be peace, so Melchizedek is identified as this kind of individual. In chronology, it is concluded that Melchizedek was in the order of high priest way before the ironic priesthood was ever established, which is the point in scripture. He is righteousness and peace, and the only one that can fill the categories of righteousness and peace is Jesus Christ. As king, He is just, and as a priest, He justifies all who trust in his atoning sacrifice. When they come to the king of justice, the king who can justify them by sacrifice, then they have real peace. Now, they are at peace with God. So, the greatness of Melchizedek is seen in his name and his status being the king of The Most High God. In other words, here is God and there is Melchizedek, and there is no one in between.
Second, the greatness of Melchizedek is expressed through the silence of scripture. It is not always what the scriptures say, but in Hebrew narrative, it is what the scriptures leave out that becomes one of the main points. Hebrews 7:3:
Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.
In reading this verse, Melchizedek doesn’t seem to be human. He can be identified as an angel, spirit, elusive, unreal character, or not human at all. Because Melchizedek’s human parents are not mentioned, it does not mean they did not exist. However, this is an example of a Hebrew literary device in which the writer uses the silence of scripture to emphasis his point. The main point is: the priest king being timeless, who continues in his priesthood as one who represents the Son of God and continues as a priest forever. In other words, this person has none of these things because they are not important. This king is not in the category of human kings, who depended on genealogy to make sure that they were going to be in line of becoming a king. This man is in a league by himself. He is so different that this is the way the writer of Hebrews must describe him.
Under Jewish law, a man could not, under any circumstance, become a priest unless he could produce a certificate of pedigree going back to Aaron. An example of this is found when the Jews came back to Jerusalem after exile. They were organizing Jerusalem and the priesthood again, and they were trying to find who belongs to the line of Aaron to be a Levitical priest. If you produce the documents, and can prove it, then you can be in the line of priests. However, if you could not produce genealogical records, then you could not be a priest. Ezra 2:61-63:
Of the songs of the priests: the songs of Habaiah, the songs of Hakkoz, the songs of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name. 62These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood.
When they came back, the people were claiming to be in the line of Aaron. When asked for proof, the people were unable to provide records, so they were considered unclean and unable to become a priest. Scripture makes clear that Melchizedek does not fit into that category. He did not have any documentation since he did not need any. Melchizedek was called directly by God. Hebrews 7:6:
But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.
Melchizedek did not have the paperwork, and his genealogy is not traced back to Aaron. In fact, Melchizedek could not be a Levitical Priest. Therefore, the silence of scripture about his birth, death, and genealogy was a type of resemblance of the eternal priesthood of Christ.
Looking further into the concept of a “type”, we must determine if Melchizedek was theophany or a type. A theophany was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament, or a manifestation of God in human form. For example, in Genesis 18, three individuals came to Abraham, sat down with him, and they told him that he would have a son called Isaac. Since God appeared to Abraham, this displays a theophany. Another example is when Moses stood before a burning bush, which was a representation that God was present. What happens when God is present? Someone will bow down, take their shows off, and realize they are on holy ground. Well, Melchizedek is not a theophany, but rather a type. A type is a copy, a sign, a figure, or a shadow cast on the pages of the Old Testament, whose full embodiment is found in the New Testament. Therefore, a type has a picture or a symbol, and it must have some reality. In fact, Melchizedek becomes a type of Christ. In the New Testament, Adam is called a type. Romans 5:14:
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Therefore, Adam represents a type of who was to come, which is Jesus Christ, who is considered the Second Adam. He is the one who does what Adam could not do. Where Adam failed, Jesus was a success. Basically, Adam is a figure of Jesus in the future, so Melchizedek is specifically an apt counter part of Christ in His priestly office. In other words, Melchizedek was a type of what Jesus Christ, the enteral priest king, would be.
What’s greater, a statue or the person it represents? Always, the statue is not greater than the person. Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior in every biblical way and to the Old Testament Levitical priesthood since he is only a type of the ultimate, superior priesthood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Christ is the anti-type, or the realty, that supersedes Melchizedek just as the person supersedes the statue. Primarily, the point being that it is not Jesus who resembles Melchizedek, but rather Melchizedek who resembles Jesus. All types point to the realty, and the realty is Christ. Therefore, Melchizedek is a real man, and he must be if he is going to be a priest. Just as Christ had to be a real man for Him to be our High Priest, Melchizedek had to be a type, which represented the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, the greatness of Melchizedek is expressed in his inherent superiority. Hebrews 7:4-7:
Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.
In other words, the Levitical priest had every right, by law, to collect a tenth, which is how they supported the priesthood. So, what was Melchizedek doing by collecting a tenth of the spoils of war from Abraham? In the time of Abraham, paying tithe to one another was recognition of another’s greatness and superiority. Also, it was a sign of subjection to that person. At this point in his life, Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel. When Abraham met Melchizedek, he immediately recognized and honored Melchizedek as one greater than him, or a divine priest. When Abraham came back from waring against all kings, he gives the best of his plunder such as gold, silver, and articles to Melchizedek, who was not in the line of Aaron. Melchizedek had no right, as far as an ironic priest, to take it, but Abraham gave him a tenth of the choice spoils anyway. Abraham recognized Melchizedek as someone greater just like we do when it comes to Christ. On the pages of scripture, we begin to recognize that Jesus Christ is greater than anyone or anything. Christ is so great that all you can do is honor, respect, and worship Him.
The fourth way Melchizedek’s greatness is expressed is in the blessing of Abraham. For instance, the greater, being Melchizedek, is blessed by the lesser, being Abraham. Abraham sees himself as inferior to Melchizedek, so he bows and receives the prayer of blessing. Abraham had the promise of a large blessing of descendants and the best of the land to be given to him whereas Melchizedek did not, yet he blessed Abraham, so he bows down to Melchizedek and receives the blessing.
Lastly, the greatness of Melchizedek is expressed by the Levitical, or the Levites, paying tithes through Abraham. Hebrews 7:8:
In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.
Through Abraham, Levi received paid tithes while still in his father’s loins, when Melchizedek met Abraham. Therefore, the whole ironic priesthood bows, through Abraham, to the superiority of Melchizedek. Even though the priesthood was not established yet, the seed of those generations, which were in Abraham, all bowed down to Melchizedek. Meaning, the Melchizedek priesthood was always superior than the ironic priesthood, or line of Levites. So, if Jesus Christ is the one being pointed to, then we see that Jesus is greater than all.
How are the qualifications of the Melchizedekian priesthood different than that of the Levitical priesthood? The Levitical priesthood is old and unable to perfect anyone, or make them right with God, whereas the new can do it all. This is all realized in Christ through this elusive character that shows up here and there in scripture showing the eternality of the priesthood of Melchizedek, which leads to Christ. For example, the Levitical priesthood is according to the order of Aaron, has a limit term of about 30 years, passes succession onto another, has nothing to do with kingship, historically comes after Melchizedek and pays tithes to him, and the order is weak, unprofitable, and perfecting nothing. However, the Melchizedekian priesthood is not from the order of Aaron, but from the call of God, has no set beginning or end of his life or ministry, and is not transmittable. Melchizedekian priesthood is royal, and came before the ironic high priest hood, who bows down to him. Also, the Melchizedekian priesthood foreshadows the character of Christ, His kingship, priesthood, righteousness, and peace.
Jesus Christ, who is perfectly qualified as a high priest, from the eternal order, can and will provide salvation to all who ask Him, by faith, making His ministry different. Unlike all those who have gone before Him, His ministry is eternal and effective. Jesus offers eternal salvation. In fact, we see, in Hebrews 7, He is a priest perpetually, lives on according to the power of indestructible life, and a priest forever and permanently, who can save forever those who draw near to God, through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. We have a High Priest, who is a forever priest and will forever bring us to the presence of God, and it will never change for all of eternity. Bottom line, Melchizedek anticipates beforehand the broader piece and greater righteousness of Christ, which He provides for His people both perfectly and eternally.