AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEK

INTRODUCTION

By all evidence, the book of Hebrews was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. We know this because the writer of Hebrews makes reference to the temple service, the priests, and the sacrifices in the present tense. In the present tense, he makes a comparison regarding the superiority of Jesus’ ministry in the heavens (in the greater and more perfect tabernacle) to that which was on earth (which only served as a shadow and an example) to point men to Christ.

He tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest since there are already priests who offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law. Even though that priesthood which had been ordained by the law was still functioning in the temple it had been made completely ineffective by Christ’s work on earth at the cross, and by his ministry in the heavens as our high priest.

Jesus’ ministry as high priest is not through the Law and when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the priesthood which was by the Law and already made ineffective, became completely inoperative.

THE LAW OF A CARNAL COMMANDMENT

According to the Law of Moses, only the descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi were commanded and permitted to serve as priests. Jesus, our great high priest, was not a descendant of Levi. He was from the tribe of Judah and of the house of David instead, and there is no place in all the Torah (the Law of Moses) where Moses spoke anything about a priest coming from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:12-14).

The author of Hebrews refers to the Law’s instructions for appointing priests as, the law of a carnal commandment, and tells us that this command has been annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (Hebrews 7:18). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the changing of the priesthood has necessitated a change of the Law as well (Hebrews 7:12) .

Without its priesthood, the Law of Moses is not functional because the priesthood was given to serve as the mediation between God and the people who were under the Law. Therefore, without its priesthood, the Law has no one to serve as its mediator to make intercession for the sins of the people.

The command given by the Law with regards to its priests required a continuous succession of priests who succeeded one another because those priests were all subject to death. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “the Law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope did, through which we draw near to God.”  (Hebrews 7:19-23)

The priesthood which was ordained by the Law could not make anything perfect and therefore it had no power to bring men near to God. Those who served as priests under that administration were men with infirmities, meaning, they were all under the power of sin and subject to death like everyone else.

They were appointed by a carnal commandment (Hebrews 7:16), which employed carnal ordinances (Hebrews 9:10), and as long as that priesthood was in force, the true Holiest of all was not yet open (Hebrews 9:8).

JESUS OUR APPOINTED PRIEST

Unlike those priests who were appointed by the Law, Jesus will continue forever as our high priest because he has been appointed as priest forever with an irrevocable oath from God who raised him from the dead. The author of Hebrews tells us Jesus has an unchangeable priesthood which will go on forever without ceasing.

The scriptures reveal that God has repented (changed his mind) at times in his dealings with man (see Exodus 32:11-14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11; Psalms 106:45). God’s character does not change, but he has reversed what he was going do and has expressed regret at times in various Biblical accounts.

However he has promised that he will never change his mind concerning Jesus as our great high priest of the New Covenant. Jesus is God’s guarantee to us that he will never repent, i.e., change his mind. It is by this oath that Jesus was made the guarantee of a better testament. Jesus is our eternal hope!

CHRIST IS A PRIEST FOR EVER AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

In expounding on the ministry of Jesus as our high priest, the writer of Hebrews makes several appeals to the Messianic prophecy that Jesus is made a priest after the order of Melchizedek and not after Aaron.

Christ was called of God as was Aaron (Hebrews 10:4-6, 10). Yet his priesthood is not after the order or rank of Aaron’s (Hebrews 7:11).

Christ’s priesthood is after the order of Melchisedek which does not necessarily mean that Melchisedek foreshadowed Christ, but simply that the priesthood of Christ in comparison to Aaron’s is of a different rank.

There are many ways in which Aaron and his descendants under the Levitical priesthood foreshadowed the ministry of Christ and this is expounded especially in the 9th chapter of Hebrews. Yet it is Melchisedek’s priesthood which is similar to Christ’s in it’s order (it’s structure).

If we refer to Melchisedek as a type of Christ we must remember that it is the structure, rank, or order of Melchisedek’s priesthood to which we are referring and not his work as a priest.

Melchisedek’s priesthood is similar to Christ’s in that he was both a king and a priest and scripture records nothing regarding his predecessors or successors. So while the priesthood of Aaron typified the work of Christ, the priesthood of Melchisedek was structured like Christ’s. This is the contrast that is being made by the author of Hebrews with regards to the priesthood of the enthroned Christ and Aaron under the Law.

Beyond the book of Hebrews, there are only four verses throughout the entirely of the scriptures which reference Melchizedek. They are Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4.

The writer of Hebrews mentions the name of Melchizedek nine times throughout his epistle. Only two of those references, where the name of Melchizedek is mentioned, concern the historical figure who met Abram (Abraham) after the slaughter of the Kings. The other seven are references expounding on Jesus’ eternal priesthood in contrast to the priests under the law. The emphasis of Hebrews, with regards to the mentioning of Melchizedek, is to reveal the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to those priests who served under the law.

The last mention of Melchisedek by the author of Hebrews is found in chapter seven. At the beginning of chapter eight he sums up everything he has said thus far concerning Jesus our Great High Priest by telling us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High.

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. (Hebrews 8:1)

Melchizedek was a king and a priest, and not a priest only. This is something that was not permitted under the Law of Moses. Jesus our great high priest is both king and priest. Unlike those priests under the Law whose work was never finished, Jesus’ has finished his work and is seated as the king of glory at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high.

THREE WAYS MELCHISEDEK IS MENTIONED IN SCRIPTURE

Ruth Lasalle Specter points out the thee ways in which Melchisedek is mentioned in scripture – (1) in history (2) in prophecy (3) in doctrine.

1. IN HISTORY (Genesis 14:17-23)

(a). He is the first mentioned priest in scripture.

(b). He appears more than 400 years before the law was given.

(c). He appears 1000 years before the Messianic prophecy of Christ.

(d). There are other priests mentioned in scripture before the Levitical priesthood was established: (1) The priest of Midian is mentioned in Exodus 2:16. (2) Joseph married the daughter of the priest of On (Genesis 41:50). (3) There were Egyptian priests under the rule of Pharaoh (Genesis 47:22, 26).

2. IN PROPHECY

The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

3. IN DOCTRINE IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

(a). His name is mentioned 9 times in Hebrews.

(b). His name means “King of Righteousness.”

(c). He was as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

WHO WAS MELCHISEDEK?

Melchisedek was a real person who was both a King and a priest. He was the King of Salem which is ancient Jerusalem in the land of Canaan (Psalm 76:2). Salem means Peace, and comes from the word Shalom.

When Melchisedek met Abram the Hebrew, as he is referred to in Genesis 14:13, the nation of Israel did not yet exist and Abraham did not yet have a child.

Melchizedek’s subjects were evidently Gentiles because Israel did not yet exist and there is no evidence suggesting that the inhabitants of Salem, where Melchisedek ruled, were in any way in covenant with the God of Abraham.

(a). Abraham had not yet been justified by faith.
(b). Abraham was childless.
(c). There was no covenant of circumcision as of yet.

Melchisedek met Abraham at the same time that the king of Sodom went out to meet Abraham. Unlike the other divine encounters which Abraham had, there is nothing in the context of Genesis 14 that would lead us to believe that Melchisedek was a pre-incarnation of Jesus.

At other times when God or angels visited Abraham, Abraham built altars and worshipped God. This did not occur when Melchisedek met him.

Abram (Abraham) left his homeland of Haran and went into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). Later, Abram was living in the land of Canaan and Lot was in Sodom when both the king of Sodom and Melchisedek came to meet Abram after he and his servants defeated the kings who had plundered Sodom.

WHY DID ABRAHAM PAY TITHES TO MELCHISEDEK?

Abraham’s tithe was an ancient Arab custom. You may find it surprising to know that tithing did not originate with the nation of Israel. Paying a tenth from the spoil of war (to the reigning or ruling king) was a customary practice in Abraham’s day. Abraham’s tithe was a special one time tithe-tax from the spoils of war.

Under the Arab custom, the spoil-tithe tax was ten percent of the spoil. However under the Mosaic Law, the spoil-tithe tax which came from the spoils of war was only one percent and was given to the Levites, and one tenth of that one percent, was given to the priests (information courtesy of Russell Earl Kelley. See also Numbers 31:27-30).

Abraham did not give Melchisedek a tenth of his own personal wealth. In fact there is no record that Abraham gave Melchisedek anything from his personal possessions. At other times when God appeared to Abraham, Abraham offered sacrifice to God from His substance (Genesis 12:7-8; 13:14-18).

MELCHISEDEK WAS NOT GOD OR CHRIST

God does not mediate as a priest for himself. Every priest is taken from among men and ordained for men. (Hebrews 5:1).

MELCHISEDEK was not Christ before His incarnation, there was only one incarnation of the Son of God. Before His incarnation, Christ was “yet to come.”

  • (b) The Law of Moses is said to have been added till the seed, who is Christ, was to come. (Galatians 3:24)
  • (a) Adam (as the first man) is said to be the figure of Him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)
  • (c) When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law… (Galatians 4:4).
  • The scriptures do not support multiple incarnations of the Son of God.

Christ, who is divine, is qualified to be our great high priest because he clothed himself with humanity.

  1. He was tempted as a man.
  2. He suffered as a man.
  3. He is acquainted with our infirmities as a man.
  4. He offered prayers as a man.
  5. He was perfected as a man.
  6. He made reconciliation for our sins as a man.

Jesus did not lay aside his deity when he came into this world. Jesus, being deity, was clothed with humanity and took the form or position of a servant though He was Lord of all. The king of glory came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He did not come to be served though he was worthy of this privilege.

As our great high priest, Jesus is touched with the feeling of our infirmities and he knows firsthand the pain that all of us face at different times in our lives. He knows firsthand the pain of being rejected because he suffered for us being rejected by his people. Yet, he trusted in God and committed himself to the One who judges righteously. According to the scripture he is our example in suffering wrongfully (1 Peter 2:19-25). After he had suffered unjustly at the hands of sinful men, he was vindicated by God when he raised him from the dead and gave him the highest place of honor. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a faithful high priest in the person of Jesus, and in Jesus, God has become personally acquainted with all of our sufferings.

WITHOUT ANCESTRY

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. (Hebrews 7:3)

It is the writer of Hebrews, not the Genesis account, who makes this startling statement. Genesis is a book heavy on genealogical records. Yet there is none given for the historical Melchisedek. He mysteriously appears on the scene and is gone after three short verses.

Genesis never says Melchisedek had no ancestry or descendants, but the absence of the mention of these is by divine design and the writer of Hebrews draws on this to elaborate on the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The absence of any genealogical record makes Melchisedek’s priesthood like unto Christ’s in structure. Christ was made a priest not through his genealogical ancestry, but by an oath from God instead.

The writer of Hebrews is not telling us that Melchisedek had no ancestry or descendants, but rather that he was a priest apart from these.

Consider the following points:

  • Ester 2:17 says, “She had neither father nor mother…”
  • “Without”, does not mean Melchisedek had no parents or descendants.The Greek word for “without” means “apart from”, or “separate from.” Melchisedek was a priest in scripture “apart from” his ancestry and descendants.
  • In this manner Melchisedek prefigured Christ’s priesthood with regards to rank or structure. Christ was made priest apart from his pedigree in the flesh.
  • It cannot be true that Melchisedek was a divine figure, i.e. Christ incarnate in the Old Testament, for then Christ would have been a priest before Aaron and there would have been no need for the Levitical priesthood to foreshadow the work of Christ, which was at that time, still to come.
  • Neither can it be correct to say that Melchisedek was Christ incarnate under the Old Testament because he was without ancestry or descendants for Christ has ancestry according to the flesh.

MADE LIKE THE SON OF GOD, ABIDETH A PRIEST FOREVER (HEBREWS 7:3)

Melchisedek was not the Son of God. The scripture says, “he was made like unto the Son of God”, similar in rank. It is important to notice that the author of Hebrews does not say the Son of God was made like unto Melchizedek, but rather, Melchizedek was made like unto the Son of God.

…made like unto… (similar to, or a resemblance of…)

It is significant that the author of Hebrews says “the Son of God” rather than “the Son of man” when speaking of Jesus’ Priesthood. Both titles (Son of God and Son of Man) are employed throughout scripture in reference to Jesus, but in reference to Jesus as high priest, the name, Son of God, is specifically referenced.

Jesus’ priesthood is predicated in his being the Son of God. Notice the following scriptures.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (Hebrews 4:14)

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (Hebrews 5:5)

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. (Hebrews 7:3)

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. (Hebrews 7:28)

AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

After the order of… i.e., “after the similitude of”, or “similar to”… (Hebrews 7:15).

Jesus is not a Melchizedek priest with a Melchizedek priesthood. He is no one’s successor and there will be no one succeeding him. He stands alone as the One God called to be our exalted and enthroned priest at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Melchizedek was a king and priest whom God caused to come on the scene in history and recorded within the pages of scripture as a revelation of the order of Christ’s priesthood.

Jesus is our King – Priest. His work is finished and he is exalted forever. The focus is Jesus, and not Melchizedek.

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