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What the Bible says about Melchizedek priesthood
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 14:18-20

Notice that Melchizedek was king of Salem. That is the city of Jerusalem. "Salem" comes from the Hebrew word meaning "peace." That would make Melchizedek the "King of Peace" (Hebrews 7:2). The Hebrew name Melchizedek itself means "King of Righteousness" (Hebrews 7:2). The same individual is mentioned in Psalm 110:4. Speaking prophetically of Christ, David stated: "The Eternal hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." This verse is quoted again in Hebrews 5:6, 10.

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!

Isaiah 7:14

The prophecy of Jesus' birth much of the world recognizes is that of Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." This, of course, came to pass precisely: "After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). Mary herself confirms she was a virgin: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34).

His "immaculate conception" (not in the Roman Catholic sense) decreed His worthiness to be our High Priest and Mediator before the Father. Though not of Levi, Jesus qualifies as a priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:14-15):

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens. (verses 25-26)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman

Luke 2:21-24

On Jesus' eighth day of life, He was circumcised, and, as a firstborn, He was dedicated to God's service. It is interesting that Luke makes no mention of Mary and Joseph offering a lamb as a redeeming sacrifice, though he does record the sin and burnt offerings that they presented later on the fortieth day of His human life.

This omission appears to be because:

1. Jesus Himself was to become the redeeming sacrifice to which all other redeeming sacrifices had pointed since Moses' time;

2. His physical life was now completely dedicated to God, as had been pictured by all the other firstborn since Moses' time; and

3. He was not to be redeemed from a life of total service to God, neither by the offering of a lamb nor by the service of the now corrupt Levitical priesthood. The imperfect Levitical priesthood, which had pictured His perfect life of service since Moses' day, was soon to be set aside, and His own priesthood (after the order of Melchizedek; see Hebrews 6:20) would be reinstated.

The offering of the two turtledoves or pigeons refers to the fortieth-day purification, not to the fact that Jesus was the firstborn. Again, this purification offering was required for all births, not just for the firstborn. Luke adds in Luke 2:27: "And when the parents brought in[to the Temple] the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law . . ."

The Law of the Firstborn

Hebrews 1:1-3

The author of Hebrews begins by extolling the given and achieved qualities of Jesus Christ. He did this partly because some Jews were dissatisfied with His being the High Priest; they considered Him to be unqualified. First on their list of reasons might have been that He was not a Levite (an argument the author engages in Hebrews 7).

The epistle's first verses, however, proceed to prove to the Jews that Jesus is qualified in every way to be High Priest despite His human descent. Israel, not Christ, is the one with the problems. The opening paragraphs demonstrate in a series of biblical quotations why Jesus should be accepted:

  1. He is the Son of God;

  2. He is the heir of all things;

  3. He is the actual Creator God;

  4. He is the brightness of God's glory;

  5. He upholds all things by the word of His power;

  6. He purged us of our sins; and

  7. He sits at the right hand of God on high.

That is a tremendous, unrivaled pedigree.

Why did God halt His sending of prophets? He had a better Prophet to send. Consider these seven shortcomings of all prophets in comparison with Jesus' strengths:

  1. All were human beings with earthly origins.

  2. All were sinful.

  3. All were beset by spiritual weaknesses.

  4. Their messages “came” to them from God; that is, their prophecies did not originate within themselves. What they said might not be the absolute Word of God. Thus, their messages lacked full divine authority.

  5. They did not grasp the fullness of the messages given to them.

  6. They did not understand the fullness of God's overall revelation and purposes.

  7. They only bore witness of the light or message God sent.

Jesus had none of these shortcomings because He was already God and one with the Father. The Jews greatly underestimated His qualifications, but in short order, the author rejects any prophet or angel from having better ones. He also does not stop displaying Christ's qualifications, continuing to add to and expound on them throughout most of the epistle. It becomes overwhelming proof of His fitness to be our High Priest.

Perhaps the Jews underestimated the impact of Jesus' birth, His ministry, His many miracles and healings, His controversies with the Pharisees and the Levitical priesthood, His tragic and “cursed” death, and His resurrection because they were done openly and had been much discussed. In addition, they distrusted His institution of the preaching of the gospel, which included opening salvation to the Gentiles.

We need to consider these things because the Father engineered this entire package from heaven. He knows when and how to advertise and promote His program, and He can do so vividly and with startling impact. Besides the prophets, the Old Testament figures the author selects to compare to Jesus are apparently listed in the order the Jews generally held as being of the highest regard. Abraham and Moses both ranked high on the list.

At the foundation of Jewish resistance to Christ, however, was their insistence that there was no need to change from the historical, traditional, Old Covenant truth that the high priest was appointed from the tribe of Levi, specifically from the family of Aaron. But there was more to their resistance than just this one point. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers in Matthew 21:33-45 shows that God has continuously attempted to communicate faithfully and honestly with the Israelites—and with Gentiles too. However, the Israelites—most of whom do not know they are Israelites and think they are Gentiles—have always resisted Him and the truth He gave them. Conversely, actual Gentiles seem to grasp the intent of God's message more quickly than Israelites do, probably because they do not have Israelite history and their traditional beliefs blinding their theological vision to the superiority of Jesus and the truths of the New Covenant.

Thus, God's setting aside of the Old Covenant and putting the New Covenant into effect paved the way for the Jews to resist. Theologically, it was too much change for many Jews to digest and accept as it effectively destroyed any reason for Judaism to continue because the New Covenant is far superior to Judaism in terms of salvation. Individual Jews might find a “reasonable” justification for its continued existence, but it was an emotional, uphill fight for them to overcome.

The New Covenant did away with the need for the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices made at the Temple. None of those religious activities could even begin to compete with what the New Covenant offered: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of God's Holy Spirit, and a one-on-one relationship with the Creator God, Savior, and High Priest! Even the apostles, who spent three and a half years with Christ, had many questions despite being with their Creator almost constantly during that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Nine)

Hebrews 7:1-17

A vital principle to remember concerning the Old and New Covenants is that what did not originate with the Old Covenant did not die with it. The gist of the argument in Hebrews 7 is that, since the Levitical priesthood has no authority under the New Covenant, the ritual laws pertaining to the priesthood are no longer valid. The priesthood has been conferred on Christ, now our High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20). This "change of the law"—the ceremonial law of sacrifices, ritual washings, and other rites pertaining to the Tabernacle/Temple and priesthood—applies only to the administration of tithing (verse 12). Since the tithing law predates the Levitical priesthood, and is thus still in force, tithes are now to be given to Jesus Christ, our High Priest, for use by the church. The church is commissioned to preach the gospel free of charge. The tithe pays for this important responsibility.

The principle of supporting the ministers of God's work is still in force in the New Testament church (Matthew 10:8-10; 24:14; 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 9:13-14).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh

Hebrews 8:11-12

The theme of the Day of Atonement is reconciliation, becoming at one with God through the forgiveness of sin. It starts the salvation process off. Each year, on the Day of Atonement, Israel's sins were symbolically transferred to the Tabernacle by having the first goat's blood sprinkled on it. The blood symbolically contained their sins. The blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, transferring their sins, then, to God's throne, where they were forgiven. That is the picture behind this.

So the author says that the Tabernacle, all of its furniture, and all of its ceremonies and rituals used to accomplish atonement (at-one-ment) with God were types. These symbols stood in their place with good purpose, but only until they were replaced with a more effective reality. Christ went into the Holy of Holies with His own blood.

Now we need to put this into a bigger context, the whole book of Hebrews. The overall theme of Hebrews can be described by such words as better, superior, greater. Chapter 1 begins by telling us that Christ is greater than angels. Chapter 2 shows us that the goal given to us in the gospel of the Kingdom of God is so far superior to anything man has ever been offered before that there is no comparison.

In chapter 3, Christ is far greater than Moses. Beginning in chapter 4 and on into chapter 6, the comparison is made with Aaron, and again, Christ is greater. In chapter 7, we find a comparison with the Melchizedek priesthood and the Levitical priesthood. The Melchizedek priesthood is greater, superior, better than Aaron's.

In chapter 8, the covenant is introduced. The New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant. The theme continues right on into chapters 9 and 10, because they are concerned with the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ to the things of the Old Testament - the Tabernacle, its furniture, and all of its ceremonial systems. But they were only imposed for a time, until something better was provided by God. It is clear, then, that God's intent with the sacrificial system was that it would only be imposed temporarily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eighteen)


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