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 Christ - Our High Priest
Part I

John Hoole January 30, 2005


In our last lesson, we began to set the stage for the fact that all of us who have Jesus as our Lord and Savior are part of a priesthood. The chorus "Chosen Generation" that we sing declares that we are a royal priesthood , and the words of that song are taken from the King James Version of I Peter 2:9. Four verses earlier, we are called a "holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5). And, in Revelation 1:5, we are described as a "kingdom of priests."

To better understand our calling as priests before God, we examined the details of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood. It was some 50 to 60 days after the Exodus that God tells Moses to separate the Levites from the rest of the tribes of Israel. As a rule, that means that when you hear of someone referring to the 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi is not one of the twelve.

We also learned that not all Levites were active in the presenting of sacrifices. Only the descendant of Aaron were called priests. All other Levites supported and assisted the priests. The Hebrew word for "priest" is Kohen, pronounced Ko-HANE. The Hebrew word priests (plural) is "Kohanim." All "Kohanim" have one ancestor - Aaron.

In addition to the priestly line of Aaron, we have one person called the "High Priest." Aaron was the first high priest, and was passed thereafter to the oldest living son when the high priest died. In Aaron's case, that would be Eleazar.

I stated earlier that each of you who are a child of God are a priest. We also have a High Priest.

WHO IS OUR HIGH PRIEST?

Jesus Christ is our High Priest.

Hebrews 9:11 NKJV

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

Eleven times, Christ is called our High Priest in the Book of Hebrews. In fact, Hebrews is the only book in the Bible that calls Jesus our High Priest. The Book of Hebrews is about Jesus Christ, and the majority of the book addresses His office as our High Priest. As the name of the book implies, it was written primarily to Jewish converts to strengthen their faith and to point out the many ways that Christ and His Gospel are a fulfillment of the Old Testament. These Hebrew converts to Christianity had been steeped in Old Testament Jewish customs and ceremonies all their lives, and were having difficulty setting them aside now that they were followers of Christ. The writer of Hebrews wants to help them through this difficulty. He makes a comparison between the old and the new.

Let's look briefly at the Old Testament priesthood, sometimes called the Aaronic Priesthood - sometimes the Levitical Priesthood. Let's go back to Mount Sinai, where the priesthood was established. God tells Moses to build a place where He could dwell and be among the people.

Exodus 25:8 NKJV

8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

WHAT IS THIS SANCTUARY MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS?

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

Now let us look at a simple sketch of the Tabernacle. The tabernacle was not an imposing structure. It was actually a rather small building. Many Scriptures refer to it as a "tent," because it wasn't a permanent structure. The length of the courtyard was 150 feet (100 cubits). It was 75 feet wide (50 cubits). The actual structure was only 45 feet in length and 15 feed wide. The entrance to the courtyard was on the east. That was true of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness as well as Solomon's temple and the temple that was built after the Babylonian captivity. Help me again to put in some of the details.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING A PERSON SAW AS HE ENTERED THROUGH THE EASTERN ENTRANCE?

There was a large altar, most commonly called the "Brazen Altar."

WHAT WAS THE NEXT ITEM?

There was a round basin on a stand with water in it. It was called the Laver. The priests would wash their hands and their feet before entering the Tabernacle.

When the priest entered through the curtain, they were standing in a 10 cubit by 20 cubit room. That makes it about 15 feet by 30 feet.

WHAT WAS THIS ROOM CALLED?

It was called the Holy Place.

WHAT WAS THE PIECE OF FURNITURE TO THE LEFT?

You would see the lamp stand - or Menorah.

WHAT OBJECT WAS PLACED ACROSS THE HOLY PLACE?

That is where you would find the Table of Shewbread.

WHAT WAS PLACED NEAR THE INTERIOR WALL OF THIS ROOM?

That is where we would find the Altar of Incense. Special incense was burned there It was in the Holy Place that the priests would minister daily. With regard to the priestly duties, specific instructions were given by God.

Let us proceed to the next room.

WHAT IS THIS ROOM CALLED?

The Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.

WERE THERE RESTRICTION ON WHO COULD ENTER THIS ROOM?

Yes. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.

WHAT WAS IN THIS ROOM?

The Ark of the Covenant.

WAS THERE ANY RESTRICTION UPON THE HIGH PRIEST CONCERNING ENTRANCE INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES?

The High Priest could do this only once per year.

ON WHAT DAY OF THE YEAR DID THE HIGH PRIEST ENTER?

On Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement.

Hebrews 9:6-8 NKJV

6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance;
8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness became the center of all the worship of the children of Israel.

WHO DESIGNED THE TABERNACLE?

The tabernacle was designed by God Himself. We read Exodus 25:8 earlier. Let's read it again and add verse 9.

Exodus 25:8-9 NKJV

8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

We find this echoed in the New Testament. In Hebrews 8:5, (NKJV) we are told that the Tabernacle, the furniture and utensils used, and the priests themselves, serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

Here we are taught that the earthly tabernacle was a perfect replica of something that already existed before in heaven. The only building ever constructed upon this earth which was perfect from its very beginning in every detail, and never needed attention, addition or alteration, was the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Every single detail was designed by Almighty God.

One thing we can be sure of. The tabernacle is a picture, a type, and a shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say that, because the Tabernacle was the place where the Israelites met with God and He with them. And today it is in Jesus Christ where deity and humanity meet. There is no other way to God except Jesus Christ.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness represented the presence of God in their midst. We sometimes use a Hebrew word to describe the manifest presence of God.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT HEBREW WORD IS?

We sometimes use the phrase, SHEKINAH GLORY. That comes from the Hebrew word, SHECHINAH (shek-i-NAH). The word "shechinah" actually means: - That which dwells.

When the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was completed, we are told the Shekinah Glory came and filled the Holy of Holies (Exodus 40:31). When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, we are told the same thing happened (1 Kings 8:11). When Isaiah had his vision in the Temple, he heard angels singing, saying "the whole earth is full of His glory." (Isaiah 6:3) Ezekiel in his ecstasy saw "the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ezekiel 1:28). These passages are also speaking of the SHECHINAH. In the Old Testament the glory of the Lord came at times when God was very near and very close.

Keep in mind that we have been talking about the Tabernacle being a type of Christ. So let's now go to the New Testament. Let me briefly take you to John 1:14.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word spoken of in this verse is the Living Word Jesus Christ. John speaks of having seen the glory of God in the person of Christ. But he uses a different word which, in English, is translated "Dwelt." The Greek word used here literally means "tabernacled," if I can use tabernacle as a verb. Some translations actually use this word.

John 1:14 (Young's Literal Translation)

14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

In the Amplified Bible, John 1:14 reads:

14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory...

When the Second Coming of Christ occurs, and He sets up his kingdom, look at the words of Revelation 21:3 (NKJV).

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God."

I must make one other comment related to Christ becoming flesh and tabernacling among us. A moment ago, I said that John 1:14 uses a different word. There are more than a dozen other Greek words that are translated "dwell" in English. This Greek word used here is found in the Bible only 5 times. Besides John 1:14, the other four are all in the Book of Revelation. And we just a moment ago read one of them.

Those of you who study the Bible in some level of detail are probably acquainted with a good resource book called the Strong's Concordance. This concordance applies a number to every Greek and Hebrew word used in the Bible. The Strong's number for the Greek word translated "dwelt" in John 1:14 is 4637. When you look up the definition of that word, you find that it means "to pitch a tent."

So, indeed, the Tabernacle is a type and shadow of Christ. Every detail of the tabernacle points to some aspect of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Now, let's go to the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. This book has a great deal to say about Christ being the fulfillment of what was shadowed in the Old Testament.

CHRIST - OUR HIGH PRIEST

Today, our lesson will focus on the High Priestly work of Jesus Christ. We will examine what that means for followers of Christ today. We will compare the High Priestly ministry of Christ to the Aaronic priesthood. The first thing I want you to be aware of is that when Christ died upon the Cross, the veil that kept man out was rent from the top to the bottom. And now we have access.

Matthew 27:50-51 NKJV

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; ...

Hebrews 1:1-3 NKJV

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

The Book of Hebrews is about Jesus Christ, and the majority of the book addresses His office as our High Priest. As the name of the book implies, it was written primarily to Jewish converts to strengthen their faith and to point out the many ways that Christ and His Gospel are a fulfillment of the Old Testament.

WHAT IS THE KEY WORD OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS?

The Key Word of the book of Hebrews is the word "BETTER". The writer of Hebrews asserts that the New Covenant is superior in every way to the Old. And central to the better covenant is the person of Jesus Christ.

Christ is shown to be "better" than:

o The Old Testament prophets Chapter 1:1-3

o The Angels Chapter 1:4 - 2:18

o Moses Chapter 3

o Joshua Chapter 4:1 - 13

o Aaron Chapter 4:14 - 10:18

Woven into the fabric of this book, we are also told that:

o Jesus provides a better covenant

o He provides a better sacrifice

o He is a better High Priest.

Another difference between the Old Testament priest and Christ was that Christ is of a different order of priests. The Old Testament priests, as well as priests like Caiaphas and others in the New Testament, were all part of the order of the Levitical priesthood.

OF WHAT ORDER OF PRIESTHOOD IS CHRIST?

According to Hebrews 7:17, Christ is "...a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." This verse is only one of nine references to the order of Melchizedek in the book of Hebrews. We don't have time today to investigate the total implication of the "order of Melchizedek". Let me make a few statements.

Melchizedek is a teasing figure. By that I mean, in the narrative found in the book of Genesis, Melchizedek appears out of the blue without introduction, and he disappears off stage without explanation. The effect is to convey the idea of a priesthood that is different than Aaron's, which is both prior to it and superior to it.

Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Genesis 14:18). In the same verse, we are told he was a priest of the most high God. Those two attributes of Melchizedek are repeated in Hebrews 7:1. Melchizedek was a type of Christ in his person as there was no recorded genealogy of him. Christ our High Priest is the Son of God, with no beginning and no end. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest. Christ is both King and Priest. Melchizedek means "king of righteousness." Christ is the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16). Melchizedek was the "King of Salem", which means the "King of Peace." Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). And Christ alone has established the only grounds for peace between God and sinners.

Besides the books of Genesis and Hebrews, there is only one other reference to Melchizedek. And it is found in a surprising place. Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm. In the early verses, the psalmist speaks of the Messiah reigning in Zion, and how He will make His enemies to be His footstools.

Psalms 110:4 NKJV

4 The LORD has sworn and will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."

To find this reference in the prayer and worship book of the Temple, where the Aaronic priesthood was in office, even a bare mention of any other priesthood seems out of place. But because it was there, and because it was given by God, it suggests to the Jews of old and new, some awareness, however dimly, on the part of the spiritually minded Jews, of something beyond and superior to the Aaronic priesthood. And if those spiritually aware accepted this as from God, then there had to be a sense that the whole temple system, instituted as it had been by Moses, was somehow lacking. It spoke ominously of some reality far higher and superior to which the Aaronic pointed.

I should also say that Christ was never a priest of the Aaronic line. His ancestry was not the tribe of Levi. He was from the tribe of Judah.

With regard to the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, I have a question.

WHEN DID THE TRANSFER FROM THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD TO THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD OCCUR?

I am not sure that I have the answer to this questions. But I do want to present some biblical data for your consideration.

In the Bible there are more than 60 references to people rending their clothes. This usually happened at a time a great anger or great distress. They would tear their clothes. Let me give you two examples.

Job 1:18-20 NKJV

18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house,
19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.

Job was greatly distressed at the loss of all his children.

In Acts 14, we find Paul and Barnabas in Iconium. When a man who had been a cripple since birth was healed, the people began to call Paul and Barnabas the gods Mercury and Jupiter.

Acts 14:14-15 (NKJV) says:

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,

Tearing one's clothes like these examples was quite common in Scripture.

Exodus 28:1-4 NKJV

1 "Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

4 And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.

In both verses 2 and 4, the garments are said to be "holy garments." Now consider this verse from Leviticus 21.

Leviticus 21:10 NKJV

10 He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes;

Notice that the High Priest was never to tear his clothes. The clothing of the Old Testament high priest represented the holiness of God. God orders the priest never to tear his garment. To do so would be in direct violation of the command of God, and disqualify him as the High Priest.

Now let's go to the New Testament.

Mark 14:61-63 NKJV

61 But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"
62 Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses?

Could this be the moment in which the order of priesthood changed? We find Christ stating that He is the Messiah - He who will sit at God's right hand. And when Caiaphas, the high priest, tore his clothes, at that moment, he disqualified himself as the high priest before God. Could it be that at this moment the Aaronic priesthood was rent away from Israel. And the very next day, Jesus, as our High Priest, offers himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. While on the subject of the clothing of the High Priest, let me make a couple more statements.

Revelation 1:13 (NKJV) tells us:

13 And in the midst of the seven lamp stands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have a description of Jesus in his High Priestly position. Like Aaron's robe, it was designed for glory and beauty (Exodus 28:2). But, unlike Aaron's robe which had a girdle with golden thread through it, Christ's girdle is all gold. Just another example that Christ's priesthood is above that of Aaron's.

   
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