Hebrews Chapter 7: The Order of Melchisedec

Jan 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Hebrews, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Hebrews Chapter 7: The Order of Melchisedec

Heb. 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

Melchisedec, the king of Salem and a priest of the “most high God,” met Abraham, who was returning from the “slaughter of the kings,” and blessed him. The term “slaughter of the kings” pertains to the rescue of Lot, who had been kidnapped by a confederacy of kings (Gen. 14:1-16). Abraham went out on a rescue mission with 318 people against the four kings and their armies and won the battle. This incident took place about 500 years after the Flood. Since only eight people (Noah and family) survived the Flood, the population of Abraham’s day was not too great. Nevertheless, the force over which Abraham was victorious, was relatively large compared to his own men.

Heb. 7:2 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;

The name Melchisedec signifies “King of righteousness” and “King of peace.” (Melchisedec was the king of Jerusalem, and Salem means “peace.”) With Salem being an abbreviation of Jerusalem, the city name was probably a corruption of “Jebu,” for the Jebusites occupied Jerusalem after Shem (whom we believe was Melchisedec) disappeared from the scene.

According to tradition and other accounts, Shem moved around and did not stay too long in any one place. He was eventually succeeded by the Jebusites. Melchisedec was a title similar to Caesar.

Heb. 7:3 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.

Melchisedec was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.” It is impossible to take this statement literally because even Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, had a Father, and the angels are called “sons of God.” Therefore, God is the Father, or the Creator, of all other beings—from the Logos down to the human race. A mother is also necessary. Thus it was from the historic standpoint that the father and mother of Melchisedec were unknown. If his real name and lineage had been known, that would have changed the type. If the account said “Shem,” then right away Noah’s name would come to mind. The point is that Melchisedec was a fresh type of a new priesthood.

“Without descent” means without record, without a recorded lineage. For Melchisedec to literally have “neither beginning of days, nor end of life,” he would have to be God Himself, for only His existence is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psa. 90:2). Therefore, Melchisedec had to be a created being but without record of descent. Moreover, Melchisedec was not Jesus, for Jesus stated, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18). Clearly then, these phrases have to be taken in an idiomatic or somewhat symbolic sense. To try to make them literal would contradict at least one of these terms.

Melchisedec was “made like unto the Son of God.” The first part of this quotation can be turned around to say, “The Son of God was made like unto Melchisedec.” The statement works both ways because Melchisedec pictures a priesthood, and Jesus was like Melchisedec in the sense that God declared him to be a “King” at the time of his ascension. “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa. 110:1). “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Psa. 2:6).

Although Melchisedec was “made like unto the Son of God,” the Son of God came later, but Paul was viewing the matter from after our Lord’s resurrection and ascension and the day of Pentecost. Melchisedec was a type of the office.

Comment: Hebrews 6:20 says, “Where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, entered, having become a High-priest for the age, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Diaglott translation).

Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, so obviously he was not Melchisedec himself.

Comment: The implication seems to be that the Jews never even considered the subject of Melchisedec.

Reply: Possibly some individual thinkers considered Melchisedec but certainly not the recognized priesthood or the Israelites as a people.

Melchisedec “abideth a priest continually.” What about the word “continually”? Certainly Jesus will not be a High Priest after the Kingdom Age in the ages of ages, in the “world without end,” for one of the functions of a priest is to atone for sin (Eph. 3:21). Therefore, just as with Melchisedec’s descent and background, we have to think of the word “continually” in a limited sense; that is, “continually” in this context means “enduring for a period of time.” Similarly, the word “forever,” whether in the Hebrew (olam) of the Old Testament or the Greek (aion) of the New Testament, literally means “for a lasting time.”

Comment: The Diaglott interlinear says “remains a priest for the continuance.”

Reply: The Hebrew olam means “for a long, indefinite period of time,” and if the thought is “for a very, very, very long time,” olam olam (“forever forever”) is used, but even that is qualified in rare instances. Usually, however, “forever forever” (olam olam) means “everlastingly” as opposed to “age-lasting” (olam). In the Greek, the term aionian is used for “age-lasting.”

Heb. 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

“Now consider how great this man [Melchisedec] was,” for “even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” to him. As unusual as Abraham was, Melchisedec was superior. In fact, Abraham did deference to him. Not only did he pay tithes, but he genuflected in recognition of Melchisedec’s rank. We are getting into the area of conjecture and speculation, but who might the mysterious Melchisedec have been? It is not too unreasonable to accept what John and Morton Edgar and some others have suggested, namely, that Melchisedec was Shem.

Under the Mosaic Law, tithes were given to the priest. Tithes were part of the income of the priesthood for the necessities of life as well as for incense, oil, and other items that were needed for the services. However, Melchisedec lived before Moses’ time and the Tabernacle and the Law, so a priesthood existed back there of which we know nothing except for two Scriptures, verse 4 being one of them. Before Moses, there was another “tabernacle,” which is mentioned only once. This thought is supported not only by a text in Exodus but also by tradition, for before Moses’ day, there was a sanctuary with an ark in Egypt. That ark was not given God’s blessing because there was confusion between two tabernacles, a true tabernacle of which we know little and a false tabernacle that was identified with the supposed god of the dead. The idea of a tabernacle originated at the time of Noah’s Ark, and from a very holy standpoint, Noah’s Ark is primarily symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy. The point is that the Hebrews did not get their information from Egypt. Rather, both Egypt and the Jews got their information back in Noah’s day.

Another thing that was commonly done and is mentioned in the Book of Hebrews is that the sabbath was observed prior to Moses but not, of course, with all of the details that were given later in the Law. One of the Ten Commandments was to keep the sabbath day holy, but other requirements were included (Exod. 20:8). God gave Moses the instructions and the pattern for the Tabernacle when he was up in Mount Sinai for 40 days. Again the point is that a custom existed even before Abraham.

Who, then, was Melchisedec? Even though Shem was not the firstborn, he was more important than Noah’s other two sons, Japheth and Ham. Noah lived 350 years after the Flood, and Shem, being younger, also lived after the Flood and was much older than Abraham (Gen. 9:28). Therefore, it was natural for Abraham to honor Shem, the principle being “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32; see also Prov. 16:31). The parent was to be honored in a religious sense, especially in old age.

Heb. 7:5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

The Jews could accept the fact that when Levi and Moses appeared on the scene and a priesthood was inaugurated under the Law, a commandment was given about a tithe that was new in the sense of being in a new framework. In other words, the old Law Covenant was a new covenant as regards the previous period of time.

Nahor was living back in Abraham’s day, and a blessing was given to both genealogical lines. It was said, “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us” (Gen. 31:53). Both were sons of Terah, but they separated. The Levitical priesthood came “out of the loins of Abraham.” The Islamic religion is a late religion, starting around AD 600, but the Muslim/Arab lineage goes back to Abraham. Hence they consider Abraham to be their father, and they claim that the blessing of all the families of the earth will take place in Ishmael’s seed. Of course that is not true, but God did bless Ishmael in giving him 12 sons (Gen. 17:20).

Heb. 7:6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.

Comment: It is interesting that Melchisedec recognized the promises would come through Abraham, and he blessed Abraham for that reason.

Reply: Yes, and the promises were both natural and spiritual. Even from a natural standpoint, Jews will go back to Israel, the navel of the earth, in the resurrection. They will return to a most precious land spot, the nation of three continents, a land where Jerusalem will be the capital of the world and the holy Third Temple will be built. Although the Jews will have a more favored position, the favor will be so abundant that all will be satisfied. Eventually, there will be no jealousy, for all of the right-hearted will say, “The Father knows best.”

Heb. 7:7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

“The less [Abraham] is blessed of the better [Melchisedec].” In other words, what seemed to be a contradiction was not. The very fact that the blessing was conferred on Abraham by this mysterious personage makes the mysterious person superior to the one who was blessed.

Heb. 7:8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

We will consider verse 8 backwards. Melchisedec is being referred to in the clause “of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” Two priesthoods were being discussed. The Aaronic priesthood is the lesser of the two, and so is Abraham in this picture. Paul was saying (1) that Melchisedec is superior to both Abraham and Levi, for both paid tithes to Melchisedec, and (2) that the Melchisedec priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood, which is represented in Levi. In many different ways, Paul was trying to teach the lesson that the Mosaic Law is passé and that the greatest privilege is the higher blessing and plane. If the Jews would only hearken, they would be weaned from the Law to Christ. Later Paul mentioned that the Jews will get a blessing anyway, but here was their golden opportunity, which they should not waste. This is only one of a dozen arguments he used to try to teach the same lesson.

Q: What is the thought of the expression “it is witnessed that he liveth”? Did Paul say this because there is no record of Melchisedec’s dying?

A: That is one reason, but in addition, the Melchisedec priesthood succeeds the Aaronic priesthood. The Law ceases—it becomes dead—to Jews who accept Christ and consecrate. The Law was already dead to Gentiles because they were never under it, but the Jews were twice dead—they were dead under Adam and dead under the Law—so when Christ came, they were freed from two types of death.

The Melchisedec priesthood will abide continually until the end of the Kingdom Age. Anyone who sins after that will die immediately with no possibility of a resurrection. Why? Because those who pass the test in the Little Season will have full light. To repeat: the human race will have fullness of light and opportunity and a period of development, so sin will not be tolerated henceforth. That does not mean, however, that in the billions of years in the future, someone might not sin. In a general sense, there will be no more death, but God will always have the prerogative of Second Death. Never again will sin be tolerated for any length of time. If a person sins, he will be extinguished. That way the human race will remain perfect forever.

The angelic host had the same experience. Adam was created perfect, he sinned, and his race suffered. The angels were created perfect, but some sinned. However, the angels existed without sinning for many years—we do not know how long. No angel had ever died, and there was no sickness that we know of. Death and disease first occurred down here, for when angels sinned, they were imprisoned, not put to death. The holy angels stood their test, and so did the patriarchs, who will not die. Even though the Ancient Worthies will be under the NewCovenant in the Kingdom Age, they will not sin because their faith is crystallized.

The point is that beyond the Kingdom Age, there will be no excuse for sin. Future generations who will be created beyond the Kingdom Age will know all about what happened down here during the permission of evil—how Jesus Christ died on the Cross, what the Ancient Worthies and the saints did, how the human race was given an opportunity for life during the Kingdom Age, etc. Therefore, no other beings on any planet will have to resist sin from the standpoint of experience. Experience was the test of the angels; they actually went through a test, but those who failed did not have previous information. Therefore, there is some hope for the fallen angels—just as there is hope for the human race.

Q: Then for the fallen angels, who are presently confined in tartaroo, is the experience similar to what the human race experiences in going into the tomb?

A: Yes. The fallen angels do not die in tartaroo, but they have the same experience. For sentient beings beyond the Kingdom Age, the teacher will not be experience but observation. For Christians now, their “observation” is the study of Scripture. In the future, study will not be necessary, for God’s requirements will be as plain as the nose on one’s face.

All beings throughout the universe will see earth’s history replayed—the Inquisition, the horrors of violence and war, etc. In other words, they will vicariously experience earth’s history by observation. Sin has served its purpose and henceforth, throughout eternity, will not be allowed to exist for any duration of time. The permission of evil is a lesson forever.

Now we can understand how the “smoke of her burning” will rise up forever and ever (Rev. 18:9,10; 19:3). The memory of the permission of evil will be perpetual and have a salutary effect on all who properly observe it. God’s thinking and motive in allowing the permission of evil are to bless as many as possible with everlasting life.

Comment: Since God is the One who calls us, He will probably be the happiest if we make our calling and election sure.

Reply: He will be the happiest in the sense that the divine family will be the most pleasing to Him. In a spiritual sense, the Little Flock are called “a royal diadem in the hand of thy God” (Isa. 62:3).

Q: Today the mind-set of Orthodox Jews is on preparing the instruments of the Third Temple, but will we have the same type of problem that Paul had in trying to get through to them, for they do not even understand Melchisedec?

A: Yes. They stick to Abraham, Moses, and the Aaronic priesthood.

Q: Who or what witnesses that Melchisedec “liveth”?

A: Melchisedec’s living is witnessed in both type and antitype. The type does not tell about Melchisedec’s dying. In regard to the antitype, Paul said that the service of the Melchisedec priesthood will not die. The New Covenant will be a New (Law) Covenant.

The account does not spell out that when the Kingdom Age ends, there will be no more Temple, services, sacrifices, etc. On the one hand, the account is just silent. On the other hand, when the one who mediates steps out, ending a covenant, the two parties come together. Therefore, by indirect reasoning, we can see some things fairly logically.

Heb. 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham.

Ironically, the paying of tithes worked both ways. Levi received tithes, from his generation on, through the Levitical priesthood, but the Levitical priesthood paid tithes to Melchisedec “in Abraham.” Paul prefaced his reasoning with the statement (in verse 7) that what seems to be a contradiction is not a contradiction. He used sanctified common sense.

Heb. 7:10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

Verse 10 shows the importance of the genetic factor. Some good lessons can be learned through genealogy, but like the stars, for example, we must not give it undue time and attention as a study (1 Tim. 1:4). It is true that the stars have lessons, but we are not to make astronomy our study. Our focus should be as Paul said, “This one thing I do”; that is, he ran for the prize of the high calling (Phil. 3:13).

Heb. 7:11 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?

Paul continued to use sanctified common-sense reasoning. If he talked about the Melchisedec priesthood as being superior to the Levitical priesthood, wouldn’t we want to know more about it? Much earlier Paul said to the Hebrews, “I would like to tell you about Melchisedec, but you are dull of hearing and need the milk of the Word. You must get beyond baptisms, restitution, etc.—the ABC’s—for the main objective is to become part of this Melchisedec priesthood.” Other apostles spoke of this priesthood as the calling of kings and priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10).

“What further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec,” especially if the Melchisedec priesthood is an abiding priesthood that is not meant to have a successor? What it pictures is superior to Levi and anything that Levi represents. Therefore, there is a death sentence on the old Mosaic Law.

When the eyes of the Jews, who have been trained under the Law, are opened in the Kingdom, they will have a sense of guilt that all of these promises were left to them, yet they crucified the Messiah. What did Jesus say of the woman who came and washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair as a towel? “Greater love is commensurate with the degree of a feeling of guilt over past sins” (Luke 7:44-47 paraphrase). Jesus stated this principle to the Laodicean church: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15,16). When the Jews see what they have done, they will become superhot compared to others who have been living as regular people and will get life but not any special reward. On the natural plane, the Jews will have a more natural honor, for it is “to the Jew first,” and then the Gentiles will have to become Israelites in some sort of service (Rom. 1:16). We are baptized into Christ in this age, and there may be some kind of baptism in the Kingdom Age. At any rate, greater honor will go to the Jews, but they will also experience greater shame and humiliation, which will serve a very good purpose. If they have been so hard-nosed the other way, then when they are changed, they will be hard-nosed for righteousness. As we have tried to say in the past, a wild horse that is broken is more obedient than an animal that is docile to begin with. Thus when the Jews are doctrinally informed and instructed, they will be more stalwart in righteousness than the ordinary Gentile.

Q: Is verse 11 saying that because perfection does not come by the Levitical priesthood, we need the Melchisedec priesthood?

A: That is or is not true depending on the perspective. Perfection did come from the Levitical priesthood as far as Christ, an individual, was concerned. We have to read Paul’s reasoning with understanding because there are exceptions. Very often Christians of all backgrounds go by the majority rule, but is the majority really righteous? No. The Levitical priesthood served a purpose, but as far as the nation was concerned, it did not grant the reward of life. However, it did grant the opportunity because God said to Israel, “If you obey my Law with your whole heart, I will make you a kingdom of priests.” The “kingdom” would be the Melchisedec priesthood. Thus the Jews were given the opportunity of the high calling. In fact, that is why Jesus initially came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel at his First Advent and later went to the Samaritans, who were half-breeds and hence better than the Gentiles. He preached first to the Israelites, then to the Samaritans, and finally to the Gentiles.

Heb. 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

Verse 12 is self-explanatory in view of what has already been explained. The Law becomes passé when we think of the new order, which had a start when Jesus, the leader, was on the scene.

Heb. 7:13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

“For he [Melchisedec] of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe [than Levi], of which no man gave attendance at the altar.” Verses 11 and 12 said, “Another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron … For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Melchisedec would have to be of another tribe because he came on the scene before either Levi or Aaron was born. Therefore, he preceded the selection of the Levitical priesthood.

Heb. 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Moses spoke nothing about the priesthood with regard to Jesus. In the past, we suggested the faint possibility that Jesus might have a Levitical (or Aaronic) strain, but that would be through the maternal line, whereas for the Aaronic priesthood, one had to be a son of Levi in a more direct sense.

Q: Does the statement “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” refer to the office rather than to a particular priestly line?

A: In the final analysis, Melchisedec refers to a priesthood rather than to a single person.

Comment: The Revised Standard reads, “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.”

Reply: “Moses spake nothing” about Jesus in connection with the priesthood of the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the Jews felt that the priesthood would have to trace their lineage back strictly to Aaron. Paul brought Levi into the account because he wanted to show that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when tithes were paid to Melchisedec.

Comment: Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedec while the 12 tribes were still in his loins.

Reply: Yes. No matter how the subject is reasoned, Melchisedec preceded (and hence was superior to) Abraham, Levi, and Aaron, the first high priest in the Mosaic arrangement.

Heb. 7:15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,

The thought is, “After the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest[hood].” Jesus was not the antitypical Melchisedec until he again became a spirit being. From then on, his followers were after the order of Melchisedec. In other words, Melchisedec typified a new and different priesthood. Paul’s arguments were powerful but simple, yet since the Jews had been indoctrinated over centuries of time, it was almost impossible to convince them. It seems that unless the Lord first softens up an individual, he will not start to listen. Paul himself was an example. He was a very zealous, eager, consecrated, and knowledgeable Jew, but he did not have the proper understanding until he was knocked down.

Q: Did the Jews think that Messiah had to come from their Aaronic priestly ranks?

A: Yes, because they did not give credence to Melchisedec. The Hebrews equated the whole Old Testament with Moses, just as we equate the New Testament with Jesus and the gospel, which is predicated on the foundation truth that Jesus Christ “taste[d] death for every man,” having given his life “a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9). With their schooling, the Jews overlooked the significance of this mysterious person, Melchisedec. Earlier Paul said, “I would like to speak more about Melchisedec, but you are dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:10,11). Then in chapters 6 and 7, he tried to give the Jews the ABC’s of understanding. He used a simple type of logic based solely on the Old Testament and the Tabernacle and its services and priesthood, which were a shadow of things to come that were superior to the Aaronic priesthood.

First, Paul used reasoning to start the Jews thinking, and the clincher came when he actually quoted from the Old Testament. Psalm 110:4, which says, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek,” definitely speaks of a different and superior priesthood to which Jesus attained. Devout Jews, who recognized Aaron and the priesthood, should have wanted to hear more about this superior priest who was on the scene before Aaron. The Scripture about Messiah’s being appointed after the order of Melchisedec would then have been a shocker. Paul led up to this Scripture in another “ABC” method of simple reasoning.

Heb. 7:16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

Comment: Jesus, the Messiah, was “not after” Aaron in the flesh.

Reply: Yes. Jesus’ coming on the scene had nothing to do with a “carnal commandment.” He had no father or mother and no beginning, as it were; he just appeared on the scene, whereas in the Law, Aaron was called of God. (Although in one sense, Jesus was called in a similar manner, his calling was in a typical sense and not after the order of the Aaronic priesthood.) The carnal commandment was merely a shadow of things to come, so even though the high priest in the Aaronic priesthood sometimes pictures Jesus in glory, the antitype was inserted later. For instance, in Leviticus 16, it was after the blood of the Lord’s goat was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy that Aaron changed into garments of glory and beauty.

Therefore, although Aaron in his garments of glory and beauty did picture Christ, it was not in the carnal way of a literal lineage but in a typical sense. From that perspective, the Law is not the reality but a shadow, type, or picture of another arrangement. Nevertheless, there was a similarity in principle and even in time sequence.

Comment: It is interesting that the Aaronic priesthood will not officiate in the Kingdom Age.

Reply: Aaron will feel this keenly from one standpoint, but he will be honored from another standpoint.

Jesus is made “after the power of an endless life.” Now that Jesus has been raised, he will not die anymore. Not only did he qualify because of his obedience, but he was endowed with the receipt of office when he was told that he was “after the order of Melchisedec.”

Paul was saying that in the literal picture, there was a literal Tabernacle and a literal Aaronic priesthood, and the high priest died. Then a son was made high priest; when he died, the cycle continued over and over. In regard to cancellation of sin, the atonement had to be repeated every year. Paul used multiple lines of reasoning that were almost like sanctified common sense. Once understood, the reasoning is very plain. However, the priesthood back there was so engrossed in their own position that they did not give attention to the authority for the priesthood, which is in the Old Testament. If the priests had desired to fulfill the office perfectly in doing God’s will, they would have gone back and studied the Scriptures more carefully.

Jesus said several times, “You mean to say that you are a priest [or a doctor of the law, etc.] and you do not know the Scriptures?” Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, was an exception, for he listened and appreciated Jesus’ reasoning. In Paul’s day, Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and all his house were an exception (Acts 18:8). Jesus said, “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23). One can be “rich” with power or influence as well as with money.

Heb. 7:17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Verse 17 is a quote from Psalm 110:4, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” David prophesied that the Messiah to come would have a personal endorsement from Jehovah. God would proclaim him to be a priest after the order of Melchisedec for a period of time (Hebrew olam). Although the time period was expressed for the moment in an indefinite fashion, the use of olam did not preclude a definite beginning and a definite ending. Sometimes the Hebrew word has a more elastic meaning depending on context. Once atonement is fully reached at the end of the Kingdom Age and all sinners have been purged, there will be no more need for a priesthood. From that time forward, anyone who sins will receive immediate judgment. The statement that there will be no more death is a general condition, for common sense would say that with free moral agency, a few individuals throughout eternity will sin. However, the likelihood is that prudence will make intelligent sentient beings accept the training and that the training will eventually bring common sense, especially when they see visually what the permission of evil did in past history down here. The lessons will be awesome. God willing, to be favored to see future history, as well as past history as it actually occurred, will bring not only wonder and beauty with regard to the good but also an everlasting smoke, or stench, with regard to the evil, so that one will want to dwell only on the good parts.

Comment: The Diaglott has, “Thou art a priest for the age.”

Heb. 7:18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.

The “weakness” is that the Law did not bring the results hoped for—eternal life and perfection of character. In addition, the fact that another (Melchisedec) priesthood would come on the scene meant that a change was coming. Paul showed it is impossible for the conscientious believer to obey the Law and its principles perfectly, yet some Christians think that once they accept Christ, it is possible to keep the Law perfectly and, therefore, to receive the justification of the Law. They think justification comes by both the deeds of the Law and Jesus Christ, but such thinking radically contradicts both the Grace Covenant for the consecrated now and the New Covenant for the world in the Kingdom. The change from the old Law arrangement is essential if one is to get life.

The Law is “unprofitable” from the standpoint of gaining the reward of everlasting life. Only Jesus was able to so obey. However, the Law is profitable for making one realize he is a sinner in need of a Savior; it is a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Moreover, its principles, which are God’s thinking, are profitable for all to study.

Heb. 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

What is the thought of “the bringing in of a better hope”?

Comment: The “better hope” is grace, the spirit of the Law, and life, as well as the Melchisedec priesthood.

Reply: Jews were required to obey the letter of the Law, whereas the Grace Covenant is the spirit of the Law. God looks for willingness of the heart to obey. Faith is the justifying factor, but faith has a lot of ingredients. Natural faith is believing that there is a God and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him, but spiritual faith is more embracive (Heb. 11:6).

Faith is not credulity; it is based on substance, on something mathematical and specifically stated, that is, on God’s Word, both the Old and New Testaments. Real faith produces works. “The law made nothing perfect,” but it did make Jesus perfect. Therefore, Paul’s entire letter to the Hebrews is needed in order to get the mood. He was saying that the Law did not produce the hopes that were generated in the nation of Israel when God said, “If you obey my Law, you will get everlasting life.” Therefore, from the standpoint of Jesus’ being the only one who benefited from the Law versus the disobedience of billions of people, Paul could say in a common-sense way, “The law made nothing perfect.”

Not only was Jesus born perfect, but he had to remain perfect. For all the rest, who were not born perfect, no matter how hard they tried, they could not fulfill the deeds of the Law. We are reminded of the rich, young ruler who came to Jesus. To take the extra step of faith in Jesus’ ministry was a little too much for him. Jesus said, “If you will be perfect, just do one little thing.

Go and sell all that you have, and give the proceeds to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven. Come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21 paraphrase). Jesus’ new ministry was to follow him; it was not a ministry of charity to the poor.

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is fraught with meaning (Matt. 25:1-13). Much is to be learned by going over it again and again, for in reality, the parable indicates that even the wisest of the virgins are still asleep as far as what is being taught. A Reprint article on the enthusiasm of the church of Thessalonica, written by someone other than the Pastor, is very uplifting. It caught perfectly the mood of the Thessalonians at that time. They waited literally from day to day for Jesus to return, but what about us? The attitude is that the Lord returned in 1874, so since he is already here, why look for his coming? The doctrine of the Second Presence, true as it is—and we believe it wholeheartedly—has led to a diminution of wanting to die and be with the Lord. How many of us are eager to die now? Of course we probably feel that we need more time to make ourselves ready, but the Thessalonians were eagerly looking forward to the coming of Jesus to take his Bride home. That hope should be our hope, but what do we do? We build homes, marry, have children, etc., etc. If we really believed and hoped that Jesus might come for his Bride tomorrow, there are a lot of things we would not do. We are all asleep, but those who accumulate an understanding of prophecy are storing oil in their vessels so that upon awakening, they will at least be informed as to what to do. The parable states that “all slumbered and slept,” and it concludes just before the marriage. Prophecy has an important place in the Christian life.

It is very convenient to say that Christ’s return was an awakening instead of a sleep, and it is easy to confuse “sleep” with inactivity. However, that is not the lesson of the parable. The parable is emphasizing the acute sensitivity and desire of the wise virgins for their change as soon as possible to be with the Lord Jesus. If we search our hearts, we find there is a lack, which is understandable because we live in the Laodicean atmosphere. As far as this subject is concerned, we are living in a smoke-filled room of indoctrinated understanding that lulls us to sleep. We are not speaking of activity and love for God and Jesus—we are not questioning the sincerity of any Christian who has consecrated and left the world—for both the Heavenly Father and Jesus recognize the marvelous step of a newborn child. The point is to eagerly anticipate and be ready for our change.

The Book of Hebrews brought in the better hope of the gospel of faith. Abraham was justified because he believed God. By faith, he left Ur of the Chaldees and went on a long and difficult journey to an unknown land. Even when he got to that land—and as a result of an entire life of faith—all he had was a burial plot. Justifying faith is very comforting, for from a pragmatic standpoint, we recognize that corruption and sin from Adam are in our body members. While God deals with us as new creatures, we have problems intellectually, morally, and physically because we are in an earthen vessel. But we have this better hope of being justified by faith, and we know that the Lord is teaching us and that there are stages of growth. The Christian walk is a process of development from a baby to a child, to a teenager, to manhood, and to great maturity, and we make allowances accordingly.

Jesus opened up “a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20). The “old way” is a history of death, for as we look out on the human scene, we see that everyone is dying. Incidentally, here again there is an exception, for Enoch and Elijah did not die. However, we are to go by the thinking of Scripture as stated from a pragmatic standpoint. Problems will develop if we get too technical. In fact, it is a problem to be either too liberal or too strict.

Heb. 7:20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

Heb. 7:21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

While there were various high priests in Israel, they became high priest without an oath or a special affirmation from God, for the Law did not specify that they had to take an oath. It would be interesting to know how the different high priests came into office. For instance, according to the Law, not only did they have to be 30 years of age, but also they had to be without infirmity, but who did the inspecting? Who examined them bodily? In the Aaronic priesthood, a high priest had, say, four or five sons. Which one of those sons would become the succeeding high priest? Logically, the firstborn son would be selected, but he was disqualified if he did not meet the requirements. The Law did not state that when a priest succeeded to the office of high priest, he had to take an oath, but even if some individuals decided to take an oath anyway, what mattered was God’s requirement.

With the Melchisedec priesthood, there was the double blessing that God, with an oath, confirmed Jesus as being of the order of this superior priesthood. Jesus was made a priest forever with an oath. The Father’s speaking firmly and strongly constituted the oath: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” God confirmed the Melchisedec priesthood with an oath, but He did not confirm the Aaronic priesthood (Aaron’s successors) with an oath.

Heb. 7:22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Jesus was “made a surety of a better testament [or covenant, that is, the Grace Covenant]” for the consecrated in the Gospel Age. The promise was made to Abraham of both a spiritual and a natural seed. That picture was confirmed with an oath after Abraham had obeyed by going to the land God had promised. By entering that land, Abraham secured the promise, and that which had previously been conditional now became unconditional. But even the unconditional covenant was confirmed with an oath when Abraham offered up Isaac, his son. Elsewhere Paul showed that Isaac is a picture of The Christ class, the antitypical priesthood (Gal. 4:28).

Heb. 7:23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

Again Paul used common-sense reasoning to show the frailty of the Law Covenant, for there was a problem in its perpetuity. The “many priests … were not suffered to continue by reason of death.”

Heb. 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. In contrast, the Melchisedec priesthood is “unchangeable.”

Heb. 7:25 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.

Jesus “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Jesus had to suffer and die to provide the Ransom for man, but he also had to become familiar with the weaknesses of the human race in order to be perfected for the office of priesthood. The experience of coming down here enabled him to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15).

Verse 25 demands an understanding of the call of Christ. In the four Gospels, plus the apostolic epistles, which tell about the gospel of Christ, we get a fullness of the realization that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost. In addition to the Book of Hebrews, Paul used several types of common-sense reasoning on this subject in his other epistles. Jesus is a sympathetic High Priest because he knows our experiences. Therefore, for us to be truly sympathetic to the trials of others, we have to be touched with similar experiences. For instance, when a mother bears a child, only another mother can fully appreciate the accompanying pains and anxieties. While a dutiful husband can empathetically enter into that experience, it is nothing like the reality. Thus Jesus’ suffering on the Cross, plus the experience of man’s inhumanity being inflicted on him, was very tenderizing. At that time, Jesus was under the heavy hand of the Father, who pressed him almost to the breaking point. Iron that is heated to an extreme temperature and suddenly chilled is hardened into steel with the addition of antimony. The same process both hardens (or crystallizes) a person in the intellectual sense and tenderizes him in the emotional sense so that he has one mind, one goal. In a way, the heart is separate with its bowels of mercy.

Jesus is able to save “to the uttermost” all who come to God through him—the Little Flock, the Great Company, and the world of mankind—because “he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Of course not until the Christian dies is his course sealed, whether favorable or unfavorable. But of all those who are saved, of whatever class, they will be saved completely after going through a test (see Diaglott). As a sympathetic High Priest, Jesus is able to offer advice, encouragement, and admonitions that are invaluable; a price cannot be put on his assistance, which has a healing effect on the soul.

Heb. 7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

How dramatically verse 26 is worded! Paul said the same thing four different ways; namely, Jesus, our High Priest, is “holy, harmless, undefiled, [and] separate from sinners.” Moreover, he is “made higher than the heavens.”

Heb. 7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

The Law required almost vain repetition yet was not successful in doing what Jesus accomplished by dying once. The Day of Atonement occurred annually, whereas Jesus’ death, which occurred once, is ever efficacious; it is a continuing healing and cleansing.

Q: What “daily” sacrifices was Paul referring to in the clause “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice”?

A: The word “daily” can mean “annual” as in an annual sacrifice, hence the Day of Atonement. Thus “daily” has the thought of “repetitive”; sacrifices were offered in a repetitive fashion. From another standpoint, a high priest was always available so that not only on the Day of Atonement but also on subsequent days, on a daily basis, the people could come into the Court and offer a sin offering or a trespass offering. Jesus does not need to offer such sacrifices, for he cleansed sin with the one sacrifice of himself.

Paul’s reasoning with regard to the high priest’s offering up “sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s” is definitely a reference to the Day of Atonement. In addition to the Day of Atonement, if a high priest sinned, he offered a sacrifice for himself, or if the whole nation sinned, a sacrifice was offered for the people’s sin.

Heb. 7:28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The “oath, which was since [after] the law,” is “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” There was another oath before the Law, namely, the oath to Abraham, but the oath after the Law pertains to the “Son, who is consecrated for evermore.”

Comment: In the Diaglott, “who is consecrated for evermore” is rendered “who has been perfected for the age.”

Reply: The word rendered “evermore” is the Greek aion, meaning “age.” Although aion has a variety of applications, it is a continuum of indefinite length. However, that indefinite length is sometimes determined as a definite length in the context where it is found. Thus the word has an elastic interpretation of endurance, but the use made of that word determines whether it means “everlasting perpetuity” or “lasting for an age.”

(2000 Study)

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