Who was Melchizedek? Was he a priesthood to be handed down and transferred to other men? How was Melchizedek (King of Salem) a representation of the coming Messiah? We are about to find our answers.
Chapter 7 is the focal point of the epistle to the Hebrews because of its detailed comparison of the priesthood of Christ and the Levitical high priesthood. Last week at the end of Chapter 6, the writer of Hebrews ended by saying that Christ was made “after the order of Melchizedek.”
Now Hebrews 7:1-2 “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jeru-salem), priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the (maraudering band of) kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all (a tenth of the spoils of war); first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;” So, who was this Melchizedek? He was another TYPE of Jesus Christ – not of a priesthood to be handed down like the Levitical priesthood. There is no mention of any Melchizedek priesthood – just a figure named Melchizedek who was such an imposing high priest even Abraham, the father of our faith, paid him respect and homage.
Prior to Sinai, the patriarchs – or fathers of each family – were established priests of the land. Then at Sinai, God established a priesthood based on the heritage of Aaron. Melchizedek was a great high priest prior to the establishment of the priesthood based on heritage. And, he was a figure for our final high priest – Jesus Christ. In Genesis, it says that Melchizedek – king of righteousness and priest of the most high God – brought to Abraham “bread and wine.” The very same elements Jesus established communion upon in the upper room. Melchizedek predated and typified Christ in his priestly duties of approaching the throne of God on our behalf. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek as an indication that Jesus’ position of authority and power were far above even Father Abraham. This story is NOT about Abraham paying a tenth or tithing – it is about a freewill offering in which Abraham gave – as a sign of being subservient to a High Priest who was greater than himself. Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils. It wasn’t a tenth of all his personal possessions or income. It was a one-time offering following war.
Then in Verse 3 speaking of Melchizedek – that he was “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest continually.” Now, we’re really getting the picture about this character Melchizedek as a type of Jesus. Did the pre-incarnate Word of God have a Father? No! There was not a father of Jesus as there was no Jesus preincarnate – but the Word of God (see John 1:1) – and the Word of God had no father, nor mother! And then the writer says that He was without descent. The Greek word for “without descent” is “agenealogetos.” Without genealogy! “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” meaning existing eternally in the past and eternally into the future. “but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest continually.” David gives us some insight in Psalm 110:4 “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Where other priests (of the Levitical order were merely high priests while alive), Christ would perform His sacred duties beyond this life and into the eternities (see Hebrews 7:22-27). The object of the writer of Hebrews is to show that Jesus is a better – or superior – High Priest than the Jewish high priest – by likening Him to Melchizedek. Whether Melchizedek was a real mortal man, or He was a pre-incarnate Christophany of the Messiah to come – we don’t know for sure. The important thing is that we understand the parallels between this Old Testament character and Jesus.
Verse 4 “Now consider how great the man (Melchizedek) was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” Through the next several verses, the writer makes a comparison between the priesthood and purpose of the Levites and the priesthood that Christ bears. If the Levitical priesthood was so great, why would Christ come bearing this other unchangeable priesthood of Melchizedek? Again, Abraham – who is greatly respected among the Jews – showed respect to Melchizedek. And, Melchizedek was a type for Christ, a spiritual manifestation of the Messiah, himself. In other words, the Levitical priests had a position of superiority over all the other descendants of Abraham, but still they were inferior to Melchizedek, and consequently to Christ as the Great High Priest. Melchizedek had no blood ties to the Levitical priesthood. So, this completely proves that Jesus was not in any way related to that order of priesthood. Since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and not the tribe of Levi, He had not the right, as a man, to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Yet, Christ had the superiority of Melchizedek over the Law. His power and priesthood – is His alone – because He is not subject to death. So, what would be the need of any other priests or high priests?
Chapter 7:11 “If therefore perfection (salvation) were by the Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest (Christ) should rise (come to us) after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” In other words, why would we need Christ, if the Law of Moses could save us? The fact is – the Law could never make men perfect because the blood being offered through animal sacrifice could never take away sin. The Law only served to prove our sin – and make us even more guilty of death.
Verses 12-13 “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he (Christ) of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe (Judah), of which no man (not of Levi) gave attendance at the alter (in the tabernacle and the temple).” Verse 14 “For it is evident: that our Lord (Christ) sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” Any knowledgeable Jew understood that the promised Messiah was supposed to come from the Tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:8-10; Isaiah 11:1-4; Micah 5:2). The writer of Hebrews is trying to show them that this promised priest has already come. He continues his argument, saying in Verses 15-17 “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest (Christ). Who is made (who comes to us), not after the law of a carnal commandment (His appointment did not come through fleshly ordinances), but after the power of an endless life. For he (David) testifieth (in Psalm 110:4), Thou (Christ) art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” The high priesthood the Messiah bore would always exist, spiritually, and did not need to be bestowed on Him.
Verses 23-24 “And they (Levitical priests) truly were many priests (approximately 84 high priests who served in a life-time calling from Aaron until the destruction of the temple in AD 70), because they were not suffered (allowed) to continue by reason of death (because they eventually died): But this man (Christ), because he continueth ever (lives forever), hath an unchangeable (non-transferable) priesthood.” Can it be more clear? Christ’s priesthood after the order of Melchizedek was never to be transferred or given to another. Jesus did not pass on a Melchizedek priesthood to his apostles. Consequently, the story Joseph Smith told about Peter, James, and John appearing to him and Oliver Cowdery to ordain them to the Melchizedek priesthood would not be possible. Today, there are tens of thousands of Mormon high priests claiming to have the Melchizedek priesthood. I’m embarrassed to say that I used to be one of them. There is only One Great High Priest – Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Verse 25 “Wherefore he (Christ) is able also to save them to the uttermost (perfectly) that come unto God by him (who come unto the Father through Him), seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Verse 26 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners (sinless), and made higher than the heavens;” Verse 27 “Who needeth not daily, as those (Levitical) high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the peoples: for this he (Christ) did once, when he offered up himself (as the sacrificial lamb).” This atonement – made by a holy and perfect offering – never needs be repeated and therefore there was an end to sacrifice. Verse 28 “For the law (of Moses) maketh men high priests which have infirmity (who have imperfections); but the word of the oath (God confirmed Christ as high priest), which was since the law, maketh the Son (were given by Christ), who is consecrated for evermore (who is our Savior for evermore).”
This brings us to the next chapter where the writer continues on and summarizes what he has taught about the need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. Chapter 8:1-2 “Now of the things which we have spoke this is the sum: We have such an high priest (Christ), who is set (seated) on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty (Father God) in the heavens. A minister of the sanctuary (the Holy of Holies), and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched (built), and not man.” In other words, Christ is our High Priest who serves for us in heaven. The “right hand” is symbolic for the principle place of heavenly honor. Verse 6 “But now hath he (Christ) obtained a more excellent (a superior) ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises (the New Covenant).” Christ is the Mediator because through His atonement, He has reconciled human beings to Father God, which the Law of Moses could not do.
Verse 7 “For if that first covenant (the Law of Moses) had been faultless (had been able to lead us to perfection), then should no place have been sought for the second (New Covenant).” Verse 8 “For finding fault with them (the Jewish nation) he (God) saith (quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34), Behold the days come (a time in the future), said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Gentiles included) and with the house of Judah (the Jews).”
Verse 9 “Not according to the covenant (the Law of Moses) that I made with their fathers (ancestors) in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant (because of the utter rebelliousness), and I regarded them not (I had to withdraw some blessings from them), saith the Lord.” Verses 10-11 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (including believing Jews and Gentiles) after those days (in a future time), saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts (the Law of Moses was primarily external, but the New Covenant is internal – in our minds and hearts): and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people (as promised in Jeremiah 31:33): And they (real Israel) shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall (will) know me, from the least to the greatest.” We will know the Lord because of the personal relationship we have with Him. Why would we then need anyone else to teach us or interpret for us the truth of Who He is.
Verse 12 “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember them no more.” This is speaking to God’s unfathomable mercy and grace for the believing sinners. And our last Verse, 13 “In that he saith A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth (becomes obsolete) and waxeth (grows) old is ready to vanish away (at the destruction of the temple in AD 70).” From that point on we had all of the written Gospels and Epistles and the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us to truth.
And, this concludes our study of Hebrews, Chapters 7 and 8. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.
Until next time, God Bless!