The High Priesthood of Christ (III)
In the previous that the priesthood article we showed how of Aaron prefigured that of Christ as to function. But the inspired writers indicated that more had to be said adequately to foretell Christ's High Priesthood. Aaron alone could not perfectly predict Christ's Priesthood.
So Melchizedek, an unusual person about whom we really know but little, was introduced as also constituting a prophecy of Christ's Priesthood. Only a few salient facts are revealed concerning the life of Melchizedek. We are first introduced to him after Abraham returned from the slaughter of the Mesopotamian kings. Primarily we are dependent upon Gen. 14:1720, Ps. 110:1-4; and Heb. 7:1-3 for all our information relating to Melchizedek's early life. From these, and a few other passages, we learn:
1. He was King of righteousness.
2. He was King of Salem (an early name for Jerusalem).
3. He was King of peace.
4. He was priest of God Most High.
5. He brought forth bread and wine.
6. He blessed Abraham.
7. Abraham gave a tenth of all that he had to him.
8. He was without priestly genealogy.
9. His priesthood was superior to that of Levi.
10. He abideth a priest forever.
Having already seen that the priesthood of Jesus was like that of Aaron as to function, we now must show that Jesus' Priesthood was like that of Melchizedek as to order. Though there are probably many other comparisons between Christ and Melchizedek, we wish to study just four of them now.
1. Both were kingly priests. Melchizedek is described as "King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is, King of peace" (Heb. 7:1-3). Known details concerning his kingship are few. Nevertheless, the Writer says enough to assure us of his kingship.
Jesus being of the order of Melchizedek as a priest (Heb. 5:6; 6:20), his also was a kingly Priesthood. Gospel preachers have repeatedly discussed his kingship as they have dealt with the theory of Premillennialism. Therefore extensive treatment does not now need to be given to the point. Suffice it simply to say that Peter taught that Jesus was raised to sit on David's throne (Acts 2: 29-33). The church is frequently referred to as a kingdom (Matt. 16:16-19; Col. 1:13; Matt. 26:29). Christ in this kingdom occupies the preeminent position, this position being known as that of "King" (1 Tim. 6:15). Thus the Bible speaks of him as "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords."
It was an unusual thing for the office of priest and king to be combined. In fact, King Saul was condemned for trying to become a kingly priest (1 Sam. 13:8-15). Yet in Melchizedek these two offices were blended in one man. Thus he became the only Old Testament prophecy of the kingly Priesthood of Christ. Aaron could only show the priestly side. David could only demonstrate the kingly aspect. But Melchizedek showed he would be both King and Priest.
2. Both were not of the Levitical priestly order. Already we have seen that the law stated that the High Priests were to be descendants of Aaron. We know Aaron's genealogy, as well as the genealogy of every other legitimate High Priest. In the New Testament times it appears that this high office had degenerated until little or no attention was paid to the establishment of one's priestly genealogy. We know Aaron's parents to have been Amram and Jochebed. We know his sons to be Nadab, Abibu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. We have no such infonnation concerning Melchizedek.
Modern archaeology has now shown that Melchizedek was from a long line of Jerusalem Kings who used a title disclaiming any hereditary claim to the crown. At every formal mention of the king, there was a statement to be made: "It was not my father and it was not my mother who established me in this position, but it was the mighty arm of the king himself who made me master of the lands of my father" (INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 230).
Melchizedek is described as "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." If these words are to be given literal construction, as some think, then the virgin birth of Jesus was a "lesser miracle" than that of Melchizedek. At least it was known who Jesus' mother was.
Surely Melchizedek had parents. All that we know, except Adam, Eve, and Christ had earthly parents. The point that the writer makes is that we know nothing concerning his father, mother, genealogy, beginning or end of life. Lack of knowledge of these facts ordinarily would disqualify one from the priestly office. But Melchizedek served anyway. Ezra 2:62 records the dismissal of some from the priestly office because they were not found in the register of genealogy. Had Melchizedek been required to qualify as a priest after the order of Aaron, he would not have been a priest at all. There was simply nothing in his genealogy to justify his priesthood.
So also was it with Christ. Jesus could not be a priest after the order of Aaron (Heb. 8:4). He was not of the tribe of Levi. He was not of Aaronical lineage. Therefore, he could not have served after the order of Aaron. But he served anyway. His Priestbood was therefore after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was the "lion of Judah"; not the "lion of Levi." Paul says, "For it is evident that our Lord hath sprang out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (Heb. 7:11-14). Melchizedek is the only Old Testament priest that properly portrays the order of Jesus' Priesthood. Both were not of the Levitical order.
3. Both were superior to the Levitical order. The superiority of Melchizedek's priesthood is shown by the fact that Abraham paid tithes to him. At this time, in Abraham's loins was his posterity. So through Abraham, Levi proleptically paid tithes to Melchizedek. Paul states, "without dispute the less is blessed of the better" (Heb. 7:7). "And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes; for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him" (Heb. 7:9. 10).
The High Priesthood of Jesus was in many, many senses superior to that of Aaron. The development of this point would in itself require a lengthy article. Jesus being after the order of Melchizedek, and Melchizedek being superior to Levi, would show that Jesus' Priesthood was superior to that of Levi. Jesus needed not to offer sacrifices for his own sins (Heb. 7:27), for he had no sins. The Old Testament priesthood consisted of men with "infirmity," but Jesus was "a Son, perfected for evermore" (Heb. 7:28).
The Levitical priests had to be replaced. They were therefore "many in number, because that by death they were hindered from continuing" (Heb. 7:23). But of Christ it is said, "He abideth forever," he "hash his priesthood unchangeable," and that he "ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7: 24, 25 ). Since changes were needed in the Levitical priesthood, this implies that there were imperfections in the Levitical order. Had the Levitical order of priests been sufficient, no need would have arisen for Him who was after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:11-14). His abiding Priesthood implies that his Priesthood does not partake of the same weaknesses that characterized that of Levi. His Priesthood, remaining unchanged, is therefore perfect.
4. Both were unique. Both Christ and Melchizedek are the only priests of their kind in the Bible. Melchizedek, being made "like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually" (Heb. 7:3). There is no record of the cessation of his priestly ministry. He had no recorded predecessor or successor. The office, so far as the Biblical record is concerned, began and terminated in him. He therefore, is a unique personage in Bible history.
The priesthood of Jesus "abideth forever . . . unchangeable" (Heb. 7:16, 24, 25). Had Jesus had a predecessor of his calibre, his coming would have been unneeded. His predecessor could have served effectually. But when he came, so perfect is his work, no successor will ever be needed. There was no other like Melchizedek in the Old Testament; and no other like Jesus in the New Testament. They are unique, one of a kind.
How did the Jews know to arrange their priesthood just exactly so as to foretell the function of Jesus' Priesthood? Remember this was done 1500 years before Christ came. The only adequate answer is that God told them how to arrange the Levitical priesthood. Thus we see the pattern of divine teaching on the priesthood.
The prophetical indications of the priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek are as truly prophecy as Isaiah 53, the great Messianic chapter. The New Testament reveals that Jesus did constitute the antitype of both Aaron and Melchizedek. Thus the claim to divine inspiration in the planning and ordering of the Old Testament system is exonerated. The perfect unity of the Bible's teaching on the priesthood is shown by this minute fulfillment of these Old Testament predictions concerning Christs work as High Priest.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 11, pp. 2-4 August 1966