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Priesthood is an institution that was central to the spiritual lives of the Jewish people. Its ministry was required regularly and it operated under the Levitical law and in the order of the descendants of Aaron who were appointed priests. What does it mean that Jesus is our High Priest? The priesthood of Jesus is more clearly portrayed by the writer of Hebrews. Jesus completed the requirements of priesthood even though he was from the tribe of Judah. He serves in the order of Melchizedek and not Levi for the following reasons. I have nine reason from my study of the Book of Hebrews which I can advance in support of Jesus' office of High Priest, beside his being King and Prophet at the same time. First, Jesus priesthood has no beginning or end. His true ancestry rests with God who ordained him High Priest (Heb 7:3) Secondly, he serves under an oath unlike the Levitical priests who were merely appointed under their order of ancestry (Heb 7:20) Thirdly, unlike under the Levitical priesthood, Jesus was both the sacrifice and the priest. He gave his body and blood as an offering to seal our redemption through the forgiveness of the Adamic sin and his blood is always available to us for remission of sins forever (1 John 1:7-10). Fourthly, Jesus is of a priestly order which is greater order than Aaron's. His appointment is eternal and hence the eternity of his priesthood (Heb 7:24). Fifthly, Like Melchizedek, Jesus combines the High Priesthood and the Kingship, discharging the functions of both offices with divine authority (Heb 7:1-2) Sixth, the covenant by which Christ’s Priesthood operates is a much better and wide covenant than the Mosaic Covenant whose scope was limited to the Jews. Jesus’ Priesthood is universal and touches the Jew and the Gentile alike (Hebrews 7:22) Seventh, the Levitical priests served with human imperfection, and were therefore limited in righteousness because of their human sinfulness. Jesus is the perfect priest who is sinless and hence makes the perfect atonement for the saints. He need not make atonement for himself for in his humanity he was without sin (2 Cor.5:21). Finally, Jesus did once what the Levitical priest did every year without end. There is no further sacrifice required under Jesus’ priesthood. He has accomplished it once and for all for us (Heb 10:14).
Jesus being our high priest also means that now since He has entered into the holy of holies, he is there interceding for us. He has died in our stead to fulfill the law that apportioned death penalty for all sinners. Since we are not immediately perfected, it means that we can some times fall into sin on our way to perfection, therefore He is right there before the Father pleading on our behalf because we have believed in what he did for us at Calvary, while the enemy the devil is accusing us. Therefore, He is still standing in the gap between us and our holy God. This is what actually gives us the boldness to approach the throne of grace for mercy in times of need. Isn't that a wonderful function He is performing for us over there in heaven? The victory at Calvary will not be complete without the priestly function of interceding on our behalf.
The concept that Jesus is our High Priest is more clearly explained in the Book of Hebrews. Paul was writing this letter to a people very familiar with these concepts from their religious experience. To you and me this concept must raise the question that you are raising now. Even more questions begin to emerge such as temple, sacrifice, day of atonement, sacrificial lamb etc. These questions will only lead us to a deeper searching of the scriptures. Each Christian must study prayerfully the OT temple practices because God sought to use these practices as practical lessons to His people on how He saves them from sin. The way God saves us from sin has not changed since Adam sinned in Eden that day. The High Priest in the OT times represented Jesus. On the Day of Atonement he would enter the Holy of Hollies with the blood of the lamb and collect all the confessed sins of the congregation of Israel on himself. In simple terms people sinned and confessed their sins through the sacrificial system all year long and these sins were "parked" in the temple. On the appointed day the high priest would enter the temple and carry all the confessed sins. He would then come out carrying the sins and transfer them on to an appointed goat destined for eternal distruction in the desert. Again here we see God trying to translate infinitely deep and eternal truths about salvation into human terms and language to make us understand. The process of salvation and final destruction of sin is far deeper than can be explained and understood in human terms. Paul tells us in Hebrews that Jesus being our High Priest has not entered the heavenly temple with the blood of animals but His own blood. In effect what Paul is saying is that Jesus was both the sacrifice and the High Priest. We can only understand this by looking higher than the shadows or symbolism of the ancient temple practices. However even if we may not fully understand the intricacies of the salvation process we have this confidence that Jesus died for our sins, He carried our sins on the cross just like the High Priest of old would do in the temple. Furthermore when our sins are banished from the temple in heaven they will be destroyed for ever. Other significant issues about the High Priest to note were His attire and the description of Jesus in Revelation. Studying the OT Sanctuary will help modern day Christians develop a deeper and intelligent relationship with their Savior. It will also help in understanding prophecy and the times in which we live.
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