Our Great High Priest

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” —Hebrews 4:14

THE foreshadowing of Jesus as the great High Priest was arranged by the Heavenly Father in an experience of Abram recorded in Genesis 14:18-20. In this account, just as Abram returned from a victorious encounter with the kings who had raided Sodom, he met Melchizedek, king of Salem. Melchizedek blessed Abram, and Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek.

This incident might have gone unnoticed had not David, under the influence and guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, expressed the Heavenly Father’s eternal purpose for his Son. David wrote in Psalm 110:1-4: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

In this psalm the Heavenly Father announced the new and higher (spiritual) order of priesthood, and with an oath he sealed his promise to make Jesus such a priest. The Apostle Paul reasons that since Abram was the progenitor of Levi, the head of the priestly tribe of the Jews, in effect, the Levitical priesthood paid tithes to Melchizedek, since Levi was yet in the loins of Abram. Without question, the lesser paid tribute to the greater.—Heb. 7:9,10,7

The apostle, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, elaborates on the meaning and purpose of this higher spiritual order of priesthood pictured by Melchizedek. In Hebrews 5:4-6 he writes: “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified [honored] not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”

In the text quoted above, the apostle states that Jesus was appointed to this high office in the same way and by the same authority as was Aaron. He did not take this honor unto himself. And then Paul proves his statement by quoting Psalm 2:7, which reads in full: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” The Hebrew word translated begotten has the primary meaning of leading to birth. This is meaningful because it was only after his death and resurrection that Jesus was made a priest. It was at Jordan that he was begotten to the spirit nature, but he did not attain that status until he had been resurrected, or born, to the higher plane of life.

The second proof of the authenticity of his office was the quotation from Psalm 110:4: “Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” This promise, it will be remembered, was sealed with God’s oath.

In verses 7-9 of the 5th chapter of Hebrews, the apostle contrasts the obvious glory of our Lord’s present status as the Melchizedek Priest with his life in the flesh here on earth. As a man, he came to take Adam’s place in death; and in addition, it was necessary for him to suffer in order that his spirit-begotten mind might be perfected before his exaltation as the Melchizedek Priest. His life as a man was one of humiliation, suffering, and sacrifice. The text reads: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author [causer] of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.”

God’s law of justice required a corresponding price for Adam, who was perfect at the time he sinned. We are told that Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26), and therefore he was qualified to take Adam’s place in death. Jesus accepted this as the primary purpose for coming to earth, and said, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for [the] many.”—Mark 10:45 (See also I Timothy 2:5,6; I John 2:2.)

In Hebrews 5:7, as the apostle describes him in the Garden of Gethsemane, it could not be that Jesus was praying to be saved from dying to take Adam’s place in death, because this he knew to be necessary for the development of the Heavenly Father’s plans and purposes for the redemption of Adam and the whole human race. The answer lies in the fact that Adam was condemned to the dust of the earth forever, and therefore for Jesus to take his place in death meant that as a man he must go into everlasting extinction. This was the reason the Heavenly Father begot Jesus to the spirit nature at Jordan. A new life was started in him, and it was necessary to develop that new mind through experiences, trials, and testings, before it could be brought to birth in a spirit body at his resurrection. Any failure on the part of our Lord to perform perfectly, and to develop perfectly, would have jeopardized his hope of being resurrected from the condition of death (Diaglott), and also such a failure would have made questionable other features of the divine plan, such as the mediation of the New Covenant.

These, we believe, were the thoughts that concerned Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The account of this experience, as recorded in Luke 22:39-46, states that an angel strengthened Jesus. (Some of the old manuscripts omit this statement, but others feel it is authentic.) Very possibly it was to this that the apostle referred when he said the prayers of Jesus were heard in that he feared [was pious].” We know that, after receiving the assurance of the Heavenly Father, Jesus did not question or flinch from the most difficult experiences imaginable. Truly, he fulfilled the prophecy concerning him that “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”—Isa. 53:7; I Pet. 2:23

Yes, the Apostle Paul states that Jesus learned obedience and was perfected in mind, and because of this he was exalted to the divine nature and made a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. In this priestly office he became the center of God’s arrangement for the redemption and perfection of his church, and in due time for the recovery of all humankind.

The importance to the footstep followers of our Lord of this unselfish and voluntary act by our High Priest, Jesus, is brought to our attention in many places. In Hebrews 6:17-20 we read: “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things [the covenant made with Abraham, and his oath regarding the Melchizedek priesthood], 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: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil [heaven itself]; whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”

What a bulwark to the faith of the footstep followers of Jesus—the heirs of promise—to have the assurance of God’s oath that the new and living way has been opened to us! The fulfillment of the promise is already in the process of being accomplished, because the High Priest of our order of priesthood has entered into the heavenlies, there to appear in the presence of God for us.—Heb. 9:24; 2:10; 4:14-16

The Atonement Day sacrifices, under the Law Covenant, were designed to cleanse the nation of Israel typically from adamic sin for one year in order that the people might, after their failures of the previous year, come back into favor and harmony with God. But this was a continuing process, for the Law made nothing perfect.” (Heb. 7:19) In Hebrews 10:4-9, the Apostle Paul quotes in part from the 40th Psalm: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. … In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. … Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the Law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

By God’s arrangement the unproductive sacrificial arrangement carried out under the Law Covenant, whereby animals were offered, was replaced by a higher order of sacrifices, whereby the antitypical High Priest offered himself to put away sin—all sin—forever. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”—Heb. 10:11,12

Yes, our great High Priest offered himself on Calvary’s cross as the ransom price for Adam and thereby provided the only efficacious sacrifice for sins that ever was, or ever could be, offered and be acceptable to God. The mystery that was hidden from past ages is the arrangement that shows how the merit of that great sacrifice for sins was to be made applicable to all mankind. It is obvious that it was not applied immediately after Christ died on the cross, or until fifty days after his resurrection. It was not until Pentecost that there was any indication that Christ’s sacrificial death had accomplished anything.

It was at Pentecost that Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, indicated that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples was the beginning of the fulfillment of a special feature of the divine plan of the ages. “This is [the beginning of] that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:16, Amplified Version) The thought is that in due time the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh in the kingdom, but first it must have its beginning by being poured out upon the footstep followers of Jesus down through the Gospel Age. The promise of the Holy Spirit was an important part of our Lord’s farewell message to his disciples. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [Holy Spirit] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him [it] unto you.” (John 16:7) “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom [which] the Father will send in my name, he [it] shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”—John 14:26

The function of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of the apostles was to make plain the hitherto hidden things (the mysteries) of God’s Word. This enabled them, and those who subsequently would follow in their steps, to be conformed to the image of the Master.

The importance of this facet of the divine plan of the ages is brought to our attention by the Apostle Paul: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. … We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world [age] unto our glory. … But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. … Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”—I Cor. 2:4-12

It is only because of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that the footstep followers of Jesus—the underpriests—are enabled to understand and appreciate the hidden mysteries of God’s Word. And it is this knowledge that enables them to lay down their lives as acceptable sacrifices.

One of the great mysteries of God in the development of his eternal purpose for man is that for the time of the Gospel Age the sacrificial merit of Christ is applied on behalf of those who have been called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. (John 6:44,45; Rom. 12:1) When this great work is completed, the merit of Christ’s sacrifice will again be available and will be applied the second time—on behalf of the world. This will be manifested in the inauguration and operation of the New Covenant.

But why was it important for Jesus to go away before the gift of the Holy Spirit could come to the disciples? In Hebrews 8:1,2, the Apostle Paul states, “We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” In these verses the apostle emphasizes the fact that Jesus, in his heavenly role, is the antitype of the Levitical high priest. And as for the Levitical priests, it was necessary that Jesus should also have somewhat to offer. (vs. 13) He offered himself. (Heb. 9:11,12) His offering could not be made here on earth because under the Law Covenant he had no standing as a priest. The Levitical arrangement provided that the priests could come only from the tribe of Levi. Hebrews 7:13-15 reads: “For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the Altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another Priest.” Therefore, the apostle concludes, “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the Law.”—Heb. 8:4

The Tabernacle arrangement under the Law Covenant was a picture of the reality. The Apostle Paul states, “But into the second [the Most Holy] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: … which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands [a heavenly arrangement], that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the Holy Place [the antitypical Most Holy of the tabernacle, which represented heaven itself], having obtained eternal redemption for us [or a ransoming—Strong’s].”—Heb. 9:7-12

But just as in the Tabernacle type on the Day of Atonement the blood of the bullock—which represented the merit of our Lord’s perfect sacrifice—was taken into the Most Holy of the Tabernacle by the high priest and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat as an atonement for his own sins and the sins of those of his house (the underpriests), so Jesus appeared “in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24) And the Apostle John adds, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:2

And so, while the merit of the sacrificed life of our High Priest (the ransom price) has been presented to the Heavenly Father for our justification—that is, for the justification of the church down through the Gospel Age—in due time it is to have a further use in providing the means of cleansing the whole world from sin through the inauguration and operation of the New Covenant; for it is under this arrangement that God will write his law in the hearts of the people and he will remember their sins no more.—Jer. 31:33,34

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted [tested] like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”—Heb. 4:14-16

Dawn Bible Students Association
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