Christ - Our Better High Priest
The majority of what is found in the Old Testament religious system is symbolic in nature. And most of the symbolism concerns some truth of salvation not yet revealed in the age of the law. Even amidst the symbolism of the Old Testament system, it is evident the Aaronic priesthood fell far short of Christ.
In our last lesson, I mentioned that the key word of the Book of Hebrews is the word "BETTER." I want to use this word to examine Christ our High Priest. By comparing Christ our High Priest to Aaron, the Jewish high priest, we will find a number reasons to say that Jesus is better.
I would like to cover the following areas.
1. Christ was a better High Priest.
2. His sacrifice is better.
3. The duration of Christ's priesthood is greater, being permanent.
4. Christ is both priest and king
5. He provided a better covenant
6. Christ had better qualifications
7. He provided better access
8. He has greater compassion
CHRIST IS A BETTER HIGH PRIEST
Hebrews 7:11 (NIV) reads:
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come - one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?
We and all mankind, back then as well as now, stand in need of a High Priest who could:
o Make atonement for our sins.
o Sanctify not just the physical body, but cleanse us throughout both body and spirit.
o Enable us to live unto God in all duties of faith, worship and obedience.
o Give us assistance in our trials, temptations, and sufferings, with compassion.
o Be willing to receive us as we pray to Him.
o Bestow upon us the gift of eternal life.
Unless we have a high priest that can do all these things, then we cannot be saved to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). That's the High Priest we stood in need of, and such an One is what we were sent in Christ Jesus.
The Aaronic Priesthood could never have provided the things we need for complete acceptance by God. Hebrews 8:6 (NIV) says it all. But the ministry Jesus has received is superior to theirs…
CHRIST HAS BETTER QUALIFICATIONS
Hebrews 5:8-10 NIV
8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him
10 and was designated by God to be high priest…
Christ had better qualification from both His human side as well as His divinity. Both are shown to be necessary. From His human side, we have his manhood, which allowed him to identify with us and we with Him. He felt and experienced what we do. He learned obedience through his suffering.
His Divine qualifications are:
o His Divine appointment (5:10).
o His sacred, or unchangeable priesthood (7:24).
o His fitness through character, being holy, blameless and pure (7:26).
o His position on the throne (8:1).
Yes, Christ had better qualifications.
CHRIST PROVIDES A BETTER SACRIFICE
In Old Testament times, absolutely no one could enter into the Holy of Holies except the high priest. And even he could not enter at will. He was allowed by God to enter one time each year, on Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement. Disobeying this rule meant certain death.
Hebrews 9:7 NKJV
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;
If the High priest entered into the Holy of Holies without the lamb's blood, God would have killed him. The blood atonement is sacred to God. This is serious business with our Lord. We cannot dare make light of something that God holds dear.
1 Peter 1:18-19 NKJV
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
Christ's blood is very important to God. We dare not minimize it.
And then in Hebrews 9:13-14 (NIV), we read:
13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.
14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Aaron had to make a sacrifice for himself and his sins, prior to taking the sacrifice for the sins of the nation into the Holy of Holies. Priests back then had to daily purify themselves from sin. Christ did not need daily cleansing because He is totally sinless and pure. Their sacrifice was symbolic - Christ's was real. The difference between the two priesthoods is the difference in the nature of the priests. One is a sinner, the other is sinless.
The once-for-all offering of Christ was not for sins of His own, since He was "holy, innocent, undefiled." Christ's personal sinlessness sets Him in a superior position to the Aaronic priesthood.
Hebrews 9:22-23 NIV
22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
The Old Testament priests offered animals. Jesus offered Himself. All the other sacrifices pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Hebrews 10:1-4 NKJV
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
Hebrews 10:10-12 NIV
10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
The sacrifice of Christ successfully put away our sin, and therefore He never needed to offer it again. The "once for all" nature of the sacrifice is a very key phrase. In English the phrase "once for all" means the same as "once." But in the Greek used here it is more emphatic. It means "one time for all times."
Let's return for a look at the Ark of the Covenant for a moment. I want you to see how it symbolized the sacrifice Christ made of himself. Let me put on the screen a rather homely construction of the Ark…….
Have them make an ark of acacia wood - two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.
WHAT'S A CUBIT?
A cubit is a measure of length, representing the distance from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. That is about 18 inches. This is sometimes referred to as a standard cubit. Assuming the use of a standard cubit, what is the length, width and height of the Ark of the Covenant? At 18 inches per cubit, it was 45 inches long, 27 inches wide and 27 inches tall.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE ARK?
The ark had a lid on it.
WHAT WAS THAT LID CALLED?
Exodus 25:17 calls this lid a "mercy seat." This mercy seat was made of pure gold. The Hebrew words for "mercy seat" could also be translated "place of atonement." This is where the High Priest placed the blood once each year on the Day of Atonement as an atonement for sin. In the New Testament, the word Propitiation is the equivalent of "mercy seat" because it represent the sin offering. 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 refer to Jesus as our propitiation, or sin offering.
DOES THE BIBLE TELL US ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE FEATURES OF THE MERCY SEAT?
Verse 18 tells us that two cherubim, of pure gold, sat on the mercy seat. They were on each end of the mercy seat, facing each other (verse 20).
We don't know exactly what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. Some models show the cherubim kneeling. Other show them standing. What we do know is that the wings of the Cherubim were stretched out above and over the Mercy Seat. Some models show the wings touching each other, others with a gap between them.
WHAT ELSE ARE WE TOLD ABOUT THE ARK?
The Two Staves (Exod. 25:12-15)
On each side of the Ark two gold rings were constructed. Through these rings two staves made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold were placed for carrying the ark. We don't know if the staves went length-ways or side-ways.
WHAT DID THE ARK OF THE COVENANT REPRESENT TO THE JEWS?
It represented the presence of Jehovah God.
WHERE, SPECIFICALLY, WAS THE PLACE REPRESENTING GOD'S PRESENCE?
Exodus 25:22 NIV
22 There, above the cover [above the Mercy Seat] between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.
God's manifest presence was not inside the box, but between the two cherubim above the mercy seat.
Let me give you an example of the mercy seat from the New Testament. When Mary went to the tomb of Jesus, what did she see?
John 20:12 NIV
12 And [they] saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
WHERE WERE THE ANGELS LOCATED IN THE TOMB?
One was sitting at each end of the slab where Jesus' body had been.
WHERE WERE THE ANGELS LOCATED ON THE ARK?
One was located at each end of the Mercy Seat.
That slab where Jesus' broken body laid, was typified by the Mercy Seat. Where Jesus had lain was the perfect Mercy Seat. There really is no more need for the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus has fulfilled all that the ark stood for.
Just as the Ark was designed to be a symbol of the presence of God in the midst of His people, Jesus is the ultimate expression of God's love and care and presence. Yes, the death of Jesus surpasses and replaces the atonement ritual of the Jewish Temple.
CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD HAS A LONGER DURATION
The old Aaronic priestly order was cursed with mortality. Its priests kept dying. But Christ, because He lives forever, and is forever the same, He holds His priesthood forever. Nothing can ever remove it
Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Jesus' sacrifice for our sins was not the end of His priesthood. That is because He "holds His priesthood permanently" The Aaronic High Priesthood was for life - but each did die. The priesthood of Jesus is also for life, but His life will never end. The Old Testament order was temporary. The priestly order of Christ is eternal and now all may come boldly to the throne of Grace.
CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD PROVIDES BETTER ACCESS.
Under the Aaronic priesthood, only one person could enter the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies represented the presence of God to the nation of Israel. And the high priest could enter God's presence only once each year - on the Day of Atonement.
Just think of how extraordinary this is. We have God, who commanded Moses and Aaron to build a sanctuary for Him, so that He could dwell among His people and for them to dwell with Him. But then - and I say this with great reverence - He shuts himself up in a dark place, and no one could come to see their God or meet Him. Only the high priest might enter in - and then only once each year for just a few minutes. But, even though the high priest had access, he couldn't stay there. He had to go out again, and if he, or any other priest, entered in at other times, immediate death was the punishment. God had His abode, but written over that abode were these words (not literally): "No admission on penalty of death." And for 1,500 years God kept the people away from direct contact with himself.
Hebrews 9:6-8 NIV
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.
7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.
8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.
But Christ, the Great High Priest, only needed to offer Himself once (Hebrews 9:28) to make an atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:11-15). At the crucifixion of Jesus, the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom. So, because there is now no restriction on entering the Holy of Holies, each man or woman can now enter that place, and as often as necessary.
Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In Israel, the place to meet with God was at the Mercy Seat, or covering for the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest could approach the mercy seat only once each year, and only if he came with the blood of the sacrifice for sins. If he transgressed in any way, he would be struck dead. His approach was with fear and trembling. Believers of the New Covenant don't have to come in fear and trembling. He says we can come boldly, and we can do it daily at any time of day.
If you had been a priest in Israel, would you have ever longed to peek behind the veil? Would you have thought, "I wish I had the privileges of the High Priest?" The Israelites were allowed to come into the outer court, and their priests into the holy place. But no one could come too near to God. But, thanks to the death of Jesus Christ, the inner veil has been torn in two. And God has commanded us to come into the Holy of Holies and dwell in his presence.
Hebrews 10:19-22 NKJV
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Not only has the blood been applied to our external garments, but has been applied to our hearts. The Old Testament priest cleansed his hands and feet at the laver before entering the Holy Place. Here, our entire bodies are washed in pure water.
CHRIST'S PRIESTHOOD IS BETTER BECAUSE HE IS BOTH PRIEST AND KING.
In the Old Testament, we had one person as a king and another person as the High Priest. There was a very strict separation of duties. The Levites could teach and kings could bless. But by no means possible could either do the essential duties of the other. Oh, King Saul tried, but was greatly punished by God. He lost his kingdom. And Aaron was never royalty.
Our High Priest, Jesus Christ, is after the order of Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest.
Hebrews 8:1 NKJV
1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest , who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
After all is said and done, the writer here says "this is the main point." We have a High Priest who also sits on a throne at the Father's right hand. Our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is the completion of sacrifice and priesthood. We can now dwell with God every hour of our lives, and God can dwell with us and in us.
CHRIST - OUR SACRIFICE - SUMMARY
The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ annulled the Aaronic priesthood. That's what we read in the book of Hebrews. There is no need to continue offering up literal sacrifices for our sins. As the perfect Son of God and our High Priest:
o Jesus offered His own body (Hebrews 10:10)
o He established a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15-22),
o with better promises (Hebrews 8:6),
o when He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 7:27)
o and paid our ransom (Hebrews 9:15).
By His death, Christ:
o took away our sins (Hebrews 9:28),
o obtained for us eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12),
o opened a new and living way in and through him to God's throne of grace and sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12),
o made us perfect in our standing before God (Hebrews 10:14).
He now invites every believer with a clean conscience (Hebrews 9:14),
o to enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19),
o to offer continually spiritual sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15-16), as priests in Christ Jesus.
In our one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), Christians come immediately and directly to God (Hebrews 4:16).
In Christ, we have all been set free from all forms of slavery and granted the dignity of a royal priesthood. Christ's priesthood, as shown in the Book of Hebrews is seen in the following:
1. It is royal in character.
2. It is heavenly in sphere
3. Spiritual in nature,
4. It is continuously effective,
5. Everlasting in duration,
6. Universal in extent,
7. Efficient in result.
Calvary was Christ's appointed hour.
John 12:27 NIV
27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. "
On several occasions previous to Gethsemane, men tried to kill our Lord, but they could not. Men tried to arrest Him, but it came to nothing. Until that hour for which He had come, He was miraculously protected. But when His appointed hour came, nothing could prevent His death. The death of Christ is the crisis of all history and of all the universe. For this purpose Christ came.
The Tabernacle - A Type of Christ (Summary)
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a figure and a shadow of He who was to come - Jesus Christ.
The Entrance points to Christ the Door - the Way.
The Altar speaks of Him on the Cross.
The Laver speaks of Him as the eternal Word.
The Table of Shewbread points to Christ, the Bread of Life.
The Lamp Stand speaks of Christ, the Light of the world.
The Altar of Incense shows us our interceding High Priest. At the brazen altar, Christ was here on earth dying for you and me. At the golden altar, He is in heaven interceding for those who have accepted His sacrificial death.
The Ark of the Covenant shadows His supreme authority and kingly position and finished work. The Ark in the tabernacle wore a crown. Exodus 25:11 reads: "You…will make a gold crown all around it." As we all know, crowns are for kings to wear. They are the symbols of sovereignty and power. Therefore, the ark in the tabernacle was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in His office as King.
The Acacia Wood speaks of Christ's humanity.
The gold speaks of his divinity.
The Veil pointed to the body of Jesus, which must be rent in order for us to have access.
Every single part in every detail in this tabernacle in some way pre-figured and foreshadowed some aspect of the work of our Lord.
The Tabernacle - The Plan of Salvation
Every detail of the tabernacle is also a complete depiction of the plan of salvation. It consists of 7 steps. All the sinner outside the courtyard could see was the 7½ foot high white linen wall around the inner courtyard and some of the unappealing rectangular hut covered with a drab leather.
This is all the unregenerate man or woman can see in Christ. They behold him as the white linen - as a good, moral, and possible perfect man - but no more. They see Him as a despised and rejected zealot, born before His time, dying for a noble cause as a helpless martyr. They may even admire Christ, but he does they do not know Him.
But then, by faith, we entered the court by way of the door and we came face to face with the altar. On it is a bleeding slain animal of sacrifice. It pictures the Cross, and there salvation became ours.
After meeting the Christ of Calvary at the altar of burnt offering, we came next to the laver of cleansing and separation. This represents separation from the world and the flesh. But because we are not yet perfect, we will from time to time slip and stumble, and therefore need cleansing. The brazen laver is the only piece of furniture where no dimensions were given as to its size. It spiritually speaks to us that there will always be enough. No matter what you have done in your life, there is enough cleansing for you.
Now, having been saved by the blood of Christ, and having been cleansed by the washing of the water by the Word, and thus separating ourselves from the world, we are now ready for the much needed fellowship of other believers. We enter the "tent of meeting" where we see other priests assembled together for worship. It is at the table of bread, where we feast on Christ the Word. Like the priests of old, who daily ate at this table of fellowship, we too eat and grow with other believers. But, unlike the priests of old, we also eat with our Savior, for He is the Bread of Life.
Part of our growing is to learn to walk in the light of our Lord. Like the lamp stand, we need the oil of the Holy Spirit to empower us, not just to bask in the light of our Lord, but to also reflect that light so that the world will come to know what you now know. The light of our testimony becomes the blessing that is passed on to the next generation of believers. Matthew 5:16 says "Ye are the light of the world."
It is now, more than ever, we see our need for constant communion with our Savior. We cannot live this new life without His help. So we stop at the golden altar of incense which speaks of our prayers and intercession. Within the Holy Place, we are now at the closest to the presence of God.
Psalms 141:2 NKJV
2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Our prayers are often described as incense rising up to our Lord.
Next, we are ready to enter the Holy of Holies. That is why the altar of incense is closest to it, for it is by prayer that we now come before the throne of heaven. Unlike the common priests of old, who could only wonder what it was like in the very presence of God behind the veil, we are actually invited there.
Inside the ark was the broken Law of God, which demanded death of the sinner. But over this broken law, above the ark, was the mercy seat, stained with blood. Without the blood, the ark, with the Law in it, stood as a place of judgment and condemnation. But, under the blood, the ark becomes a place of victory and security.
What we have seen is that the tabernacle had three areas or places. There is the outer court - the place of sacrifice, The inner room, called the Holy place - the place of worship, and the innermost room or compartment, the holy of holies - the place of spiritual communion with God and victory with Christ.