The High Priesthood of Christ (1)

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

There will be three articles in this series on the priesthood of Christ. This first article will mainly serve to introduce the points of comparison that we want to make between Christ's priesthood and those of Aaron and Melchizedek. The priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek served to prefigure that of Christ. As such, they were prophecies of Christ's function as a priest. Implied, then, in the thesis of these articles will also be two of the main arguments for the inspiration of the Bible: (1) The unity of the Bible; (2) The prophecies of the Bible.

All revealed worship has an altar, sacrifice, and priesthood. It might even be said that all counterfeit religion also has an altar, sacrifice and priesthood. We read that Noah and Isaac prepared altars (Gen. 8:20; Gen. 26:25). Altars are significant only as places for the offering of sacrifices. Those who offer these sacrifices occupy the position of priests. "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High" (Gen. 14:18). A prophet is one who speaks to the people in behalf of God; a priest acts toward God in behalf of the people. Under the patriarchy the heads of families served both as prophet and priest.

The New Order Is Prophesied

God had the scheme of human redemption in His mind from eternity. It was God's eternal purpose to send His son. This plan was for ages hidden in the mind of God (Eph. 3:8-11). Christ was "foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:19, 20). He was a "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8King James Version).

The Old Testament order of things was intended by God to foretell what was in His mind for New Testament times from eternity.

Someone has said, "In the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed; in the New Testament the Old Testament is revealed." This statement might be somewhat modified and still be correct; it also is true that in the Old Testament order the New Testament order is revealed. There are several key words used in the Bible that indicates to us that the Old Testament system foretold the New Testament system of worship. Note some of these words.

1. "Shadow" is one of these words. Paul declares that "meat," "drink," "a feast day," all of which were a part of the Old Testament system, "are a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:16,17). The writer of Hebrews declares that the law had "a shadow of good things to come" (Heb. 10:1, 2). It is true that a shadow implies dimness and transitoriness, but it also implies likeness. Though the Old Testament order did not clearly and fully reveal the nature of the New, and though the Old Testament system was not to endure forever, yet the shadow constituted a likeness to the true system later to be revealed.

2. "Copy" is another word applied to the Old Testament order that indicates its relation to the new order. Those who served the law are said to have been serving that "which is a copy and shadow of heavenly things" (Heb. 8:4, 5). Old Testament practices are said to be "copies of the things in the heavens" (Heb. 9: 23, 24).

3 "Figure" is another word indicating that the Old Testament worship foretold the New. The Hebrew writer states that the "first tabernacle . . . is a figure for the present time" (Heb. 9:8,9).

4. "Type," however, is the most often used word. The usage of the word type indicates or implies a likeness to be imprinted by the type, this likeness being called the antitype. Thus the Old Testament order typified the New Testament order. The Greek word (tupos) from which "type" is translated occurs 16 times in the New Testament. It is translated by several different English words. Twice it is translated "print" (Jno. 20:25), twice "figure" (Acts 7:43: Rom. 5: 14), twice "pattern" (Titus 2: 7; Heb. 8:5), and once "fashion" (Acts 7:44), "manner" (Acts 23:25), "form" (Rom. 6: 17), and seven times "example" (1 Cor. 10: 6, 11; Phil. 3: 17; 1 Thess. 1: 7; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3).

The related Greek words "antitupon" (translated "figure") and "antitupa" (translated "figures") occur in 1 Pet. 3:21 and Heb. 9:24 respectively. While most recognize that the Old Testament order is typical of the New, we might also suggest that the Old Testament system is in some sense an antitype. It is at once typical and antitypical, since it is called "antitupa" in Heb. 9: 24. It is antitypical of the pattern for the Old Testament system that first existed in the mind of God. It was built according to the pattern (Ex. 25:40), and thus was an imprint of the divine pattern originally in God's mind. In addition to being in this sense antitypical, it was typical of the New Testament order.

Warning Concerning Usage of Types

There are two extremes in dealing with that which is typical. One extreme rejects all types as fanciful and useless. The other extreme makes nearly everything typical. These seek to find some correlation between nearly everything in the Old Testament and something in the New Testament. Moses Stuart gives this bit of valuable advice: "Just so much of the O. T. is to be accounted typical as the N. T. affirms to be so, and no more."

There are two pertinent features of a true biblical type: (1) It must be a true picture of that which it prefigures; (2) It must be a divine appointment, for a type actually constitutes a prophecy of that of which it is typical. And since only God cans prophecy unerringly, then that which is truly typical must be an appointment of God.

We stated that this lesson embraces the powerful argument of prophecy in behalf of the inspiration of the Bible. How so? Shadows, figures, copies and types of the Old Testament constitute prophecies of the New Testament order. Types are treated in the New Testament as though they were "adumbrations and prophecies of the future." Speaking of the Old Testament priesthood and the high priesthood of Jesus, the precise point of this series of articles, William G. Moorehead says in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "The one answers to the other as type and antitype, as prediction and fulfillment" (p. 2444). "They (i. e. Aaron and MelchizedekCW) were called and consecrated that they might be prophecies of Him who was to come and in whom all priesthood and intercession would find its ample fulfillment" (ISBE, p. 2440). "The priests of Israel were but dim shadows, obscure sketches and drafts of the one Great Priest of God, the Lord Jesus Christ" (ISBE, p. 2441).

Proposition Under Discussion

Though some valuable points could also be learned by comparing the common Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament with the priesthood of all believers in the New Testament (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6), yet here we must confine our study to the pre-figurement of the high priesthood of Jesus by the priestly functions and orders of Aaron and Melchizedek. Jesus' priesthood was like that of Aaron as to function and like that of Melchizedek as to order.

Since the priesthood of Jesus is so extensively discussed in the book of Hebrews, the bulk of our study in the next two articles will be from that epistle. An article will follow showing how Jesus' priesthood is like that of Aaron as to function, and a third article will show how his priesthood was perfectly predicted as to order by that of Melchizedek.

Type and antitype, shadow and the real, copy and pattern, prophecy and fulfillment, all necessitate unity and superintending guidance. Else there would be no such correspondence at all. These correspondences imply divine guidance, for only God can know the end before the beginning. These Old Testament arrangements were from eternity planned by God so as perfectly to prefigure that that would not yet be for centuries. Certainly this prerogative of divine foreknowledge belongs only to an Infinite Being. Perfect correspondence between type and antitype, separated by many centuries should satisfy anyone that God's hand was in it all.

This study is therefore intended not only to be instructive, but faith building. Plan to study the two articles to follow with open Bibles.

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 9, pp. 2-3 June 1966