|Study of Hebrews|
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
I hope you had time to read this whole chapter, because I’m going to deal with the whole chapter in one study. Part of it is mainly relevant to the Jewish Christians of Paul’s day, but there is a very important section and I would like to spend some time with it today.
In Heb. 5:10, Paul introduced us to Christ as God’s High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. Then in verse eleven he tells the Hebrews, i.e., the Jewish Christians that he was writing to, that he had many things that he would like to expound about this truth, but they were not in the frame of mind to hear him because they were still immature Christians. So he spends chapter six with warnings and encouragement in order to strengthen their faith.
Having done that in chapter six, now in chapter seven he returns to Christ as the “High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” He ends chapter six with that statement. In chapter seven he expounds on the meaning of this.
As you read Hebrews you will find that Paul again and again uses this phrase, “Christ, as High Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.” Now the sheer repetition of this phrase indicates that there is something very vital in this truth. This is what he brings out in chapter seven. The first three verses are extremely important and have tremendous significance to us. What I’m going to do is read the first three verses of chapter 7 and then I want to give you a little background which the Jewish Christians already knew because they were very familiar with the Old Testament. So let’s read the first three verses and then I’ll give you the background that will help us to understand what Paul is trying to get across here:
For this Melchisedec [he has already told us that Christ is a High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec in verse twenty of chapter six], king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
These three verses can be fully understood only when we know the background in Genesis chapter fourteen. You need to read the whole chapter but I will summarize it. In Gen. 14 the first eleven verses have a description of a battle between four kings on one side and five kings on the other. In this battle in verse twelve we are told that Lot and his family who were living in Sodom were taken captive with all their possessions. Then in verse thirteen Abraham hears about this and he comes to the rescue. The odds were against Abraham but of course God was on Abraham’s side and God gave him a great victory. That’s what Hebrews is referring to.
After this victory, and this is what I want you to be aware of, and you’ll find this in verses seventeen to verse twenty-four of Genesis fourteen, after this victory, when Abraham rescued Lot and his family and brought back all of the possessions that were lost, Abraham was approached by two men, one was the king of Sodom and the other was king of Salem, Melchisedec. The king of Sodom offered Abraham a lot of wealth. In other words the king of Sodom said, “Boy, this man is powerful, I’d better get him on my side.” He offered him a lot of money. You’ll find this especially in Gen.14:22,23:
And Abraham said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich.
Melchisedec on the other hand only gave him bread and wine. That’s all he gave him. Which one did Abraham accept? The gift of Melchisedec, bread and wine. And he didn’t need it because he had come back with all the possessions. The Bible tells us, and this is what Hebrews 7 is alluding to, he accepted the gift of Melchisedec, bread and wine.
Now, you see, the King of Sodom represents the world with its riches. The bread and wine represents the gift of God. I want to remind you of John 6:53 and onwards. Remember what Jesus said:
I am the bread of life. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood [and these are the two symbols, bread and wine representing the body and blood of Christ] shall have eternal life.
So here is, number one, a gift of God. Remember, Melchisedec was not only the king of Salem but he was the priest of the Most High God. So Abraham accepted the gift of God rather than the riches of the world. This is something that we must keep in mind. Abraham in the New Testament is called, “The father of all believers,” or the “father of the faithful.” He represents the true Christian who by faith accepts Christ rather than the wealth of this world. The issue is not, “Is it wrong to be rich?” That is not the issue. The issue is when you have to make a choice between God and materialism [or Sodom] which will you choose? Abraham made the choice of Melchisedec.
Lets now go back to Hebrews chapter seven. “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem...,” By the way Salem later became Jerusalem and the word “Salem” means peace. In Hebrew you have the word Shalom and in Arabic Saalam. That’s a common greeting in the Middle East today. So we are told two things about Melchisedec. The city he represents is the city of peace and that’s the New Jerusalem. The name of the King Melchisedec means “King of Righteousness.” That’s found in Heb.7:2. So Melchisedec represents the King of Righteousness since that’s the meaning of his name and he represents the King of Peace because that’s the city over which he rules. These are the two things.
We are told in verse one that Abraham met him after he came back from that tremendous victory. After he ate the bread and wine what did Abraham give to Melchisedec? He gave him a tenth part of all as told in verse four. Why did Abraham give him a tenth part? Tithe paying is simply an indication. To pay tithe means that God owns everything, not just one tenth. The one tenth is a symbol.
In other words, when Abraham paid tithe to Melchisedec who was the priest of the Most High God, he was saying, “The One you represent, the One most high, has the right of ownership over everything that I have.” Please remember that without God, Abraham could never have won the victory. The odds were against him. He could never have made it. The king of Sodom was much stronger than Abraham’s army, and yet he was defeated. So Abraham is saying, “What you return to me is not mine. Everything I own is yours. Even my life is yours. I’m giving you a tenth as a symbol of my confession that everything I own is yours, including my life.”
Let’s go to the next point in verse three about Melchisedec. It says here, “Without father, without mother.” Every time I read this text I am reminded of Ethiopia. This is a common phrase among the Ethiopian beggars. One day a beggar came to our house. He was at least sixty years old and he said to us, “I have no father and no mother.” Yet he was sixty years old.
I said to him, “I have the same problem, I have no father and I have no mother.”
In this context, what does it mean that Melchisedec was without father and without mother? Does it mean that he had no father? No. Does it mean he had no mother? No. It means he had no descent, neither beginning of days nor end of life. In the Jewish culture, and in the Middle East, culture genealogy was very important. What Paul is saying here is that we have no record of the genealogy of Melchisedec.
One of the problems is in the second half of verse three, “But made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” Was Melchisedec Christ or was he representing Christ? Which? Please notice: the words “made like” tells us. He signified, he was a representative of Christ, but he was not Christ. This is clearly brought out in the Spirit of Prophecy and is the basic belief of most scholars. He symbolized Christ.
Which came first? Melchisedec or Levi? Who was a priest first? Melchisedec. He began as a priest before the Levitical priesthood. When the Levitical priesthood was done away with at the cross did he continue? Yes, Melchisedec represents the everlasting priesthood. In contrast to the Levitical priesthood which was temporary.
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Now I would like you to notice three words in this chapter. The first one is “continually” in verse three. The second one is in verse twenty-five:
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
This is the same meaning as “continually.” Then the third one is in the last verse of chapter seven, verse twenty-eight:
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity [i.e., weaknesses]; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Now these three words are synonymous with the Hebrew word “Tamid.” This is the word that is used for the daily in the sanctuary service. We have two words: “daily” and “yearly.” The yearly is “Yom Kippur” and the “daily” is “Tamid.” So these three words are telling us that when Christ went to heaven as a priest, He went there first of all to function as our everlasting Priest, continually.
What does this mean to us? What is the significance? The priesthood of Christ is eternal in the sense that He began as a priest in 31 A.D. When will He end His priesthood? Did the daily service come to an end on the Day of Atonement? Was the daily service also practised on the Day of Atonement? Yes, it was. Then Christ as our daily (continual priest) did not stop in 1844. He is still a priest today.
How long will He be our priest? Until He puts all enemies under His footstool. Now He will cease to be our Advocate after probation closes because we don’t need an advocate but we will have a Priest and He will save us to the uttermost.
What does the word “uttermost” imply? When will your salvation be finished to the uttermost?...when you go to heaven and even after that when you come back to this earth, when dominion and authority is given to the saints. So please remember:
How much time do you spend with God each day? Each of us are different but I would like to tell you how much time Christ is available to us: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, as long as we are living. That’s how much He’s available to us. When we come to Him, He is able to save us to the uttermost. Can you see why this was very important to Paul? The Levitical priesthood had problems:
So the rest of Hebrews seven is dealing with the contrast between Melchisedec and the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical was temporary in contrast to Christ being permanent and changeless. The Levitical was incomplete because the priests died, in contrast to Christ as everlasting. The Levitical was weak but Christ is all powerful, He saves to the uttermost.
There are two items here that I need to bring to your attention, and which sometimes might come up in your witnessing. Look at verses four to ten of Hebrews seven. Paul is saying that the Levitical priesthood is inferior to the Melchisedec priesthood. And the argument he uses is something important. The Levites were descendants of Abraham. If Abraham was the father of the Levites, who is greater, Abraham or the Levites? Can the son be greater than the father? Maybe in our culture here he can, but in eastern culture, never. The father is always the head. Remember that Abraham is not just the father of the Levites. He was the father of the nation. He was the beginning of a new nation.
Now, if Levi was inferior to Abraham and Abraham paid tithe to Melchisedec, who was greater, Melchisedec or Abraham? Melchisedec was the greater. Therefore Levi was inferior to Melchisedec. That is a typical eastern argument.
The second argument in chapter seven verses four to ten is that Levi paid tithe to Melchisedec. In whom? In Abraham. Please look at verse nine:
Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
Now we don’t have this problem since we don’t have a choice between Melchisedec as a priest and a Levitical priesthood. The Jews in Paul’s day did have a choice. Who should we accept? Christ, who is symbolized by Melchisedec, or the Levitical priesthood? Who should we choose? Christ.
I had to make a choice between Christ as my priest and the Roman Catholic priest where I went to confession. Every Roman Catholic, when you confront him with the gospel, has to make the same choice. You have to prove to him that Christ as our priest is superior to the human priest. A Catholic Christian does not go directly to Christ. He goes through a human priest. So for forgiveness of sins he has to go to a man and confess his sins. So when you are witnessing, elevate Christ as the Superior Priest. He is the only one who is able to save you to the uttermost. Human priests are still sinners. They need a Saviour themselves. The next argument is from verse eleven onward in chapter seven of Hebrews. This can be seen as a problem:
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, [for under it the people received the law,] what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
What Paul is saying here is that Christ could not belong to the Levitical priesthood. Why? Because He was a Jew of the tribe of Judah and according to the law Judah did not get the priesthood. Only the Levites could be priests. Continuing in verse twelve:
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
This is the text that some may use to prove that the law has been changed. They will take this verse and apply it to the Sabbath. They’ll say, “Look, the law has to be changed since grace came in.” We must be faithful to the context. According to the law of Moses who could be priest? Levites. Did Christ belong to the Levites? No. Therefore according to the law could Christ be a priest? The answer is “No.” Which law is Paul talking about here? He is not talking about the moral law which is changeless, and is everlasting. That is shown in Matt. 5:18 “Until heaven and earth pass a jot or tittle will not pass.”
Was the ceremonial law changeable? Yes, and here he says that the law of the Levitical priesthood was a temporary law. It was not a permanent law. Melchisedec was a priest before the law was given. And yet he was the priest of the Most High. So if Melchisedec could be a priest without coming under the Levitical priesthood law, so also could Christ be a priest. The Jewish Christian was saying, “How can you change God’s law?” And Paul was saying that this law was only temporary. And this is the argument of verse fourteen:
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.
Does the Bible allow another priesthood? Yes. Which is the better priesthood? The Melchisedec because he is a priest forever. So the priesthood law was done away with as shown in verse eighteen:
For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect.
Could the Levitical priesthood save Israel? What did they bring to God? The blood of bulls and goats which could never remove sins. They were only a symbol or a type but not the reality. Of course verse twenty-one says:
For those priests were made without an oath; [here comes the last argument] but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent.
As we covered in our last study, when you make a promise and do not give an oath it means that you can change the promise. When you make a promise and you sware that you will keep that promise you are not supposed to change. When the Levitical priesthood was inaugurated there was no oath. When Melchisedec was made a priest and when Christ was made a priest there was an oath. (Ps. 110:4.)
In the Coptic Church in Ethiopia there were two ways a couple could be married. If they were married without the Lord’s supper they would be allowed to divorce. If they were married with the Lord’s supper they were never allowed to divorce. I asked the priest one day, “How many do you marry with the Lord’s supper?”
He said, “These days, almost none.”
I think you have a similar idea in the Mormon Church, two types of marriages. Please remember that is not Biblical. The Bible says that when you are married you are married for life. The vow is an oath.
When God made Christ a priest according to the order of Melchisedec, He made an oath. What does that mean? It means that God will never change that priesthood. The only priesthood that is an everlasting priesthood is the priesthood that God promised by an oath. Therefore Paul is saying that the very fact that God did not make an oath when he inaugurated the Levitical priesthood is evidence that God never intended the Levitical priesthood to be an everlasting priesthood. It was temporary. “So you Jews please stop reverting back to the Levitical priesthood. That was temporary. You must now go to Christ.” Paul completes his argument in Heb. 7:28:
For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; [they were weak, they were sinful, they were temporary] for the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
So will God change His mind? No. We have a guarantee that we have a priest. He is a priest who is able to save us to the uttermost as we come to Him.
So please remember that when the Devil comes to you and says, “You are not good enough to be saved. You are a failure,” and he comes with all kinds of things to knock you down, just remember that you have a priest who represents you before the throne of God and He is able to save you to the uttermost.
As long as we are sinners we need a Saviour. As long as we are sinners we need a perfect Priest who represents us. Always keep this in mind. I would like to close with the time of the end. When you and I face the time of trouble, when God removes His protection, that’s what happens in the time of trouble, God will say to Satan, “Here are my people who have the faith of Jesus and who are revealing this faith by keeping the commandments, not mechanically, but in the spirit.”
Satan will say, “Yes, because you have built a hedge around them. Give them into my hands and I will show you that they will turn their backs to you.”
God will say, “You can have them. They are yours, excepting one thing. You can’t kill them.”
The devil will come and hound us. Not only physically, not only in terms of material things, but the thing that he will do most to hurt us will be psychologically, mentally. He will come to you and say, “You are not good enough to be saved.” He will come to Christians who believe in the secret rapture and will say to them, “Do you know why you have not been raptured? It is because you are lost.” He will say to you, “Do you know why you still feel that you are a sinner? Because God no longer loves you.”
What are you going to do? You may be agonizing as we are told in Great Controversy, but please remember that you have a High Priest who has not forsaken you. He is your priest who will save you to the uttermost even though the heavens fall. Please remember that this is the anchor of our souls. This is what Paul says in Heb. 6:19: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil...” until He comes to take us home. This is why we need to understand Christ as our Everlasting Priest. That’s why Paul emphasizes and repeats, “Christ is a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”