With His mission to show us God the Father and to make a New Covenant for us completed, Jesus the God-Man is then revealed for who He is – our Mediator, Great High Priest of Priests, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! (1 Timothy 2:5. Revelation 1:10-18). He is robed in the garment of the Great High Priest appearing as God was described in the Old Covenant (Ezekiel 1:27;8:2). That is, in the fiery beauty of Holiness! Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. (Hebrews 4:14 NET)
The Old Covenant
There are two different orders of Priesthoods in the Old Covenant (Old Testament)(5):
The first order of priesthood was from Melchizedek:
Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.) He blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:18-20 NET)
Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him. To him also Abraham apportioned a tithe of everything. His name first means king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. (Hebrews 7:1-2 NET)
Melchizedek (which means king of righteousness) appeared to Abraham blessing him and revealing himself as the king of Salem (Salem means Peace and is believed to be ancient Jerusalem (Psalms 76:2)) and the priest of the Highest God. Putting those various names together, Melchizedek is a Priestly King of Righteousness and Peace or rather Jesus is the giver of righteousness that leads to peace with God the Father! (Romans 5:1,2)
Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. But see how great he must be, if Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of his plunder. And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen, although they too are descendants of Abraham. But Melchizedek who does not share their ancestry collected a tithe from Abraham and blessed the one who possessed the promise. Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. For he was still in his ancestor Abraham's loins when Melchizedek met him. (Hebrews 7:3-10 NET)
No genealogy was revealed for Melchizedek in the Old Covenant. Nevertheless, Melchizedek’s importance is revealed by father Abraham (Romans 4:16) giving him the tithe and receiving a blessing from him.
The second order of priesthood was from Aaron:
"And you, bring near to you your brother Aaron and his sons with him from among the Israelites, so that they may minister as my priests– Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. You must make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:1-2 NET)
You are to present Aaron and his sons at the entrance of the tent of meeting. You are to wash them with water and take the garments and clothe Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastpiece; you are to fasten the ephod on him by using the skillfully woven waistband. You are to put the turban on his head and put the holy diadem on the turban. You are to take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. You are to present his sons and clothe them with tunics and wrap the sashes around Aaron and his sons and put headbands on them, and so the ministry of priesthood will belong to them by a perpetual ordinance. Thus you are to consecrate Aaron and his sons. (Exodus 29:4-9 NET)
Aaron, the older brother of Moses (Exodus 6:20) was chosen by God to be the first High Priest of this second-order of the priesthood. Aaron’s sons were to wear holy garments (1) as priests unto God with Aaron wearing holy garments for “glory and beauty” as the High Priest.
The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. (1 Chronicles 6:1-3 NET)
Aaron was descended from Levi (Exodus 6:16,18,20) and hence was a Levite by birth.
The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron and his descendants were chosen on a permanent basis to consecrate the most holy items, to offer sacrifices before the Lord, to serve him, and to praise his name. The descendants of Moses the man of God were considered Levites. (1 Chronicles 23:13–14 NET)
However, the descendants of Aaron were given the priesthood, and the descendants of Moses were considered the Levites that supported the priests in the daily operation and maintenance of the tabernacle.
The New Covenant
There is one order of priesthood in the New Covenant (New Testament), the order of Melchizedek with Jesus as our Great High Priest over Christians who are now the Priests unto God! (Revelations 1:6; 5:10. 1 Peter 2:5)
So if perfection had in fact been possible through the Levitical priesthood– for on that basis the people received the law– what further need would there have been for another priest to arise, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in Aaron's order? For when the priesthood changes, a change in the law must come as well. Yet the one these things are spoken about belongs to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever officiated at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord is descended from Judah, yet Moses said nothing about priests in connection with that tribe. (Hebrews 7:11-14 NET) (3)
So, what happened to the priesthood of the order of Aaron? I am glad you asked! The priesthood of Aaron, a priesthood under the law that could not make lost humanity righteous, ended at the trial of Jesus (1) and the Law as the way to righteousness (1) at the crucifixion of Jesus (1). Realize, the purpose of the priesthood was to remove the obstacle of sin (Isaiah 59:2) which kept man from God and to make a way of access for man to God. The Levitical priesthood and sacrifices could not do this in actuality but rather provided it in a figurative way pointing to the Messiah and His substitutionary death on the Cross. That is, the blood of animals could not pay for sin; however, the blood of Jesus (1) the Messiah could!
Since the Levitical priesthood brought nothing to completion not only was another priest needed but another priest of a different kind. That is, it could not be another priest in the line of Aaron, but one of a different and superior order of priesthood – a new priest, Jesus the Messiah, after the order of Melchizedek had to be instituted.
Consequently, the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek replaced the priesthood after the order of Aaron, the New Covenant both supplanted and subsumed parts of the Old Covenant, and Jesus’ blood (the reality) replaced animal blood (the type). Since the Mosaic law required that the priests should come from the tribe of Levi, a new priesthood, not of the order of Aaron, must set aside that law. The Messiah comes from the tribe of Judah which is a tribe that was not specially set apart for priestly service.
However, if a change to a new and different order of priesthood was to be made it must be by reason of a change to a new legal basis. The law governing the priesthood as found in the Mosaic system must be repealed in favor of another which would provide for an order of priesthood that would function successfully where the Aaronic priesthood failed. Enter the New Covenant which is superior to and takes the place of the Old Covenant since the Old Covenant could not offer a sacrifice that paid for sin whereas the New Covenant has paid once for all time. Hallelujah!
And this is even clearer if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest not by a legal regulation about physical descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For here is the testimony about him: "You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek." [Psalms 110:4] On the one hand a former command is set aside because it is weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:15-19)
In the case of the Levitical priest, the priests had to come from a certain family, the Aaronic, with fitness for office even among the male members of this family predominately determined by physical qualifications (e.g., without bodily blemish and ceremonially pure). However, no matter how ill-suited he was or reluctant to take the office, the law made him a priest because of his Levitical pedigree. He did what he did so far as official duties were concerned by reason of an outside compulsion.
However, in the case of the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, He performed His duties as High Priest, not by reason of the fact that any official necessity was laid upon Him, but by virtue of the power in His own nature compelling and enabling Him (John 3:16. Luke 22:42. Hebrews 10:17. John 15:13). The power of a life that even death could not dissolve for He raised Himself from the dead (1) (John 10:17). The life of the new High Priest is indissoluble and indestructible, not as eternally existing in the pre-incarnate Son, but as existing in Him while incarnate and fulfilling His priestly duties. It is here that the term “indestructible” is applied, for He died on the Cross as the High Priest offering atonement (1), but it was necessary that He raise Himself from the dead (1) for the continuance and completion of His priestly duties and thus manifesting the power and nature of His indestructible and indissoluble life.
The Levitical system was perfect for the purpose for which it was instituted, that of pointing to the Great High Priest, Jesus the Messiah. But when it came to the place where a sacrifice would be demanded of it that would pay for sin, it was found to be weak and unprofitable. The Mosaic system could not offer a sacrifice that would pay for sin; therefore, it could not save anyone so they could draw near to God. Consequently, it was set aside and in its place, there was brought in a better hope through which we can draw near to God. (3)
And since this was not done without a sworn affirmation– for the others have become priests without a sworn affirmation, but Jesus did so with a sworn affirmation by the one who said to him, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever'"– accordingly Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:20-22 NET)
The inferiority of the Aaronic priesthood to that of Melchisedek is understood by the fact that when the Levitical priests were inducted into office, God the Father did not take an oath. However, when Jesus the Messiah was made a High Priest, God the Father took an oath guaranteeing the unending character of His High Priesthood. Consequently, Jesus is the surety of a better covenant because God the Father took an oath that His priesthood would be an everlasting one. That is since God the Father took an oath that Jesus would eternally be our Great High Priest then Jesus becomes the guarantee of an eternal better covenant. God taking an oath means that there are no conditions to be fulfilled by humanity for Him to fulfill a promise. In this case, Jesus will be a Great High Priest independent of mankind’s actions or inactions.
And the others who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:23-26 NET)
The Aaronic High Priest was hindered from continual intercession for the people by their death requiring the transfer of their ministry to the next high priest in succession. However, Jesus our Great High Priest will exist forever so there is no need or provision for another Great High Priest to succeed Him. Consequently, Jesus is able to make intervening intercession for the believer forever and thus able to save believers completely! That is, saved completely via justification in the new birth to glorification in the future. (Romans 8:29. 2 Timothy 1:12. Hebrews 12:2)
Furthermore, the Aaronic High Priest was also a sinner living amongst sinners and actually in need of Jesus the Great High Priest to mediate salvation for themselves. However, we sinners being sinful are dependant upon the mediation of a sinless high priest. We find this need met in Jesus who is sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21. 1 Peter 2:22. 1 John 3:5. Hebrews 4:15) and serving as Great High Priest, is seated in His glorified state and body at the right hand of God the Father in the Heavenly Holy of Holies far removed from defilement from sinners and their sins. (Hebrews 12:2)
He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. For the law appoints as high priests men subject to weakness [Hebrews 5:2], but the word of solemn affirmation that came after the law appoints a son made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:27,28 NET)
The Aaronic priests had to offer repeated sacrifices because the blood of animals could not pay for sin but rather cover it and this he did year by year when interceding with the blood of animals for the sins of the nation of Israel (Hebrews 9:6,7). While Jesus the Messiah’s intercession is continuous He does not need day by day to renew His sacrifice as the lamb of God (Isaiah 53:7. John 1:29,36. 1 Peter 1:19) because His blood did not merely cover our sin debt but rather paid for our sin thus eliminating the debt (Colossians 2:14). Furthermore, Jesus the Messiah did not have to offer first for His own sins since He is, and always has and will be, sin-free.
For every high priest is taken from among the people and appointed to represent them before God, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal compassionately with those who are ignorant and erring, since he also is subject to weakness, and for this reason he is obligated to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. And no one assumes this honor on his own initiative, but only when called to it by God, as in fact Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:1-4)
A high priest must be called by God and partake of the nature of the person for whom he officiates. That is, in order for a high priest to officiate on behalf of mankind, he must be called by God from among mankind. The high priest’s work is to minister to mankind in things that involve mankind’s relation to God which he does by offering gifts and blood sacrifices for his sins and the sins of the people. Furthermore, if the high priest is to do this effectively he must have genuine compassion for the sinful without being too severe with those that sin intentionally or too tolerant of those that sin ignorantly. The Aaronic High Priest was called by God from among men so he was able to have compassion on his fellow sinners but being himself a sinner had to effectively resist their own sinful nature’s desire to control them. (Genesis 4:7) Jesus the Messiah is superior to Aaron in that He as High Priest is not taken from among men but from among the members of the Godhead. Jesus was foreordained to be God’s sacrifice for our sin (1 Peter 1:18-20) for which He willing obeys (Hebrews 10:6,7).
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but the one who glorified him was God, who said to him, “You are my Son! Today I have fathered you,” [Psalms 2:7] as also in another place God says, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” [Psalms 110:4] During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. (Hebrews 5:5-7)
Jesus the Messiah did not ambitiously seek (1) the eternal office of the Great High Priest but rather was glorified by God the Father with this high honor not due to being a man but rather because He is the resurrected Son of God. The same Son of God that while on the cross, not in Gethsemane (4), asked God the Father via praying the 22nd Psalm (1) to save Him, not from dying, not to be saved out from among the dead like Lazurus (John 11:38-44), but rather to be saved out from within the dominion or grip of death (i.e., to be saved out of death or figuratively “the mouth of the lion” (Psalms 22:19-21. 1 Peter 5:8. cf 1 Timothy 4:17)). That is, Jesus prayed on the cross to be resurrected (1) and by that to destroy Satan and his works including sin and death, etc. (Hebrews 2:14. 1 John 3:8) (4)
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek [Psalms 110:4]. (Hebrews 5:8-10)
Jesus, the Word, omniscient God knew what obedience was but He never experienced it until He came to Earth in human flesh. Realize, prior to His incarnation He owed obedience to no one as there was no one greater than Himself to whom He could have given obedience. However, via the incarnation, God the Son became obedient to God the Father. It was not that He had to learn to obey as He always did those things that pleased His Father. (John 8:29) Rather He required the special discipline of suffering, in severe human experiences, as training for His office as a high priest who could be easily touched with the feeling of human infirmities. That is, Jesus did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; however, He through practicing obedience in His new role of a Son submitted to a Father acquired the understanding of obedience thus perfecting Him as our Great High Priest. This was similar to Jesus who is and always has been the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), growing in wisdom as a human (Luke 2:52). These growths in obedience and wisdom learned experientially as a human were an essential part of Jesus’ humanity.
Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. (Hebrews 4:14) (4)
Jesus the Messiah is a great high priest, greater than Aaron since He has passed through the heavens and is in Heaven. Aaron on the Day of Atonement would pass through the court of the tabernacle, through the Holy Place, and into the Holy of Holies (1), which were all types of the realities in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5). Recall, in the Old Covenant, the atonement was not completed at the brazen altar but rather the high priest had to carry the atoning animal blood into the Holy of Holies where it was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat thus completing the atonement for another year.
However, Jesus the Messiah as High Priest of the New Testament passed through the first heaven (i.e., Earth’s atmosphere), the second heaven (i.e., outer space), and into the third heaven (God’s spiritual planet Heaven) (2 Corinthians 12:12). Consequentially, Jesus the Messiah ascended from the borrowed tomb to the third Heaven on Resurrection morning as High Priest having made atonement for sin at the Cross with His body being both the Earthly Temple of God (John 1:14;2:19,21. Mark 14:58. 1 Corinthians 6:19. Colossians 2:9) and its Mercy Seat (Romans 3:25).
Furthermore, not only was Aaron unable to offer a sacrifice that would pay for sin, but he could not have passed through the heavens to mediate the New Covenant. This was not only due to the force of gravity that would have prevented Aaron from passing through the heavens but also the power of Satan and his demons that would have opposed his progress through the atmosphere of this earth. Note that the only time in the account of the six days of re-creation that God did NOT say it was good was when He re-created the atmosphere of the planet (1) (Genesis 1:6,7). I believe this is when Lucifer moved back to Earth and took up residence in the atmosphere. (Ephesians 6:12;2:2. Daniel 10:1-21) The atmosphere has since been the location where Satan has his kingdom of fallen angels and from where he coordinates them and his demons in an attempt to isolate and insulate the human race from God. This evil authority opposed the progress of the resurrected Jesus as He left the tomb and passed through the heavens to present Himself, along with the Old Testament saints (1), including Aaron that were held captive in Paradise (1), as the High Priest who had made eternal atonement for sin at the Cross of Calvary via His blood.
But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity,how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. (Hebrews 9:11–14 NET)
Although our Lord’s atonement was completed at the Cross, Jesus was still required to enter heaven as our mediatorial High Priest, after having made an everlasting and eternal atonement for sin. Consequently, Jesus presented Himself at the throne of God to His and our Father in His glorified flesh and bone (Luke 24:29) yet bloodless body, the evidence that mankind’s sin debt had been paid and the bill of debt obliterated through His blood that was freely and completely poured out. (Hebrews 9:12. Colossians 2:14. Acts 3:19. John 19:24) Not that Jesus needed to take His physical blood into the tabernacle of Heaven since it had already been poured out on Himself as the living Tabernacle and Mercy Seat of God during His Passion.
A Testament Demands Death
And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant. For where there is a will, the death of the one who made it must be proven. For a will takes effect only at death, since it carries no force while the one who made it is alive. (Hebrews 9:15-17 NET)
Nevertheless, Jesus the God-Man entered Heaven to take His rightful place at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. He is the one being in the universe that is uniquely qualified to be the mediator (Isaiah 42:6,7) between God and man and in addition, He is the executor that probates His own Last Will and Testament (aka, the New Covenant) which became effective upon His death on the cross.
“A testament, by its very nature, requires the death of the testator. Covenant, or testament, is from the Greek diathēkē, the basic meaning of which corresponds closely to that of our present-day will. A will does not take effect until the one who made it dies. Until that time, its benefits and provisions are only promises, and necessarily future.” (9)
Forgiveness Demands Blood
So even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. For when Moses had spoken every command to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded you to keep.”And both the tabernacle and all the utensils of worship he likewise sprinkled with blood. Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. So it was necessary for the sketches of the things in heaven to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves required better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands—the representation of the true sanctuary—but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:18–26 NET)
“It was not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf, which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could be saved by blood without death, the animals would have been bled, not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus. Thus bloodshed was the symbol for death when Moses ratified the covenant on Sinai. Likewise, when the Tabernacle was inaugurated, Moses sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood, again picturing the price to be paid for sin. The central lesson of the covenant was thus illustrated by the sprinkling of blood in the Tabernacle and Temple as long as that covenant stood. The purpose of the blood was to symbolize sacrifice for sin, which brought cleansing from sin. Therefore, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Again, however, we need to keep in mind that the blood was a symbol. If Christ’s own physical blood, in itself, does not cleanse from sin, how much less did the physical blood of animals. It is not surprising, then, that the Old Covenant allowed a symbol for a symbol. A Jew who was too poor to bring even a small animal for a sacrifice was allowed to bring one-tenth of an ephah (about two quarts) of fine flour instead (Leviticus 5:11). His sins were covered just as surely as those of the person who could afford to offer a lamb or goat or turtledove or pigeon (Leviticus 5:6–7). This exception is clear proof that the old cleansing was symbolic. Just as the animal blood symbolized Christ’s true atoning blood, so the ephah of flour symbolized and represented the animal blood. This non-blood offering for sin was acceptable because the old sacrifice was entirely symbolic anyway. Yet this was the only exception. And even the exception represented a blood sacrifice. The basic symbol could not be changed because what it symbolized could not be changed. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). Since the penalty for sin is death, nothing but death, symbolized by shedding of blood, can atone for sin. We cannot enter into God’s presence by self-effort to be righteous. If we, on our own, could be good, we would not need atonement. Nor can we enter His presence by being model citizens or even by being religious. We cannot enter His presence by reading the Bible, by going to church, by giving generously to the Lord’s work, or even by praying. We cannot enter His presence by thinking good thoughts about Him. The only way we can enter into God’s presence, the only way we can participate in the New Covenant, is through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, made effective for us when we trust in Him as saving Lord. God has set the rules. The soul that sins will die. The soul that is saved will be saved through the sacrifice of God’s Son. For this sacrifice there is no exception, no substitute, for this is the real thing. Because they were symbols, God provided a limited and strictly qualified exception (flour) to the old sacrifices. But there can be no exception for the real sacrifice, because it is the only way to God.” (10)
In addition, Jesus’ blood also cleansed Heaven from the defilement by the sin of Adam who apparently had access to Heaven and this access allowed Satan to re-enter Heaven (1) after being cast out. Nevertheless, after this cleansing Satan can no longer enter Heaven (1) as all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Jesus. (1) (Matthew 28:18) Unfortunately, Satan still has authority in his world system (Acts 26:18) for a little while longer until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire. (1)
Judgment Demands a Substitute
And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation. (Hebrews 9:27–28 NET)
“After death comes judgment, which is also appointed by God. And since men are not able to atone for their own sins, God’s judgment demands that they pay or have a substitute pay for them. Like all men, Jesus Christ was divinely appointed to die once. But unlike all other men, He will never face judgment. Because He took our sins upon Himself, He took our judgment upon Himself. But the judgment was for our sins, not for His, for He had none. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He died the one death that judgment demanded.” (11)
Furthermore, all humans are appointed to die at least once (Hebrews 9:27) which means that those that have not died yet will have that opportunity before or during His second appearance when the Lord’s return for His Church. (1) (7)
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, "See that you make everything according to the design shown to you on the mountain." (Exodus 25:40) (Hebrews 8:1-5)
Jesus our High Priest is seated at the right hand of God the Father in the heavens, a place that Aaron could never occupy, indicating that His work of offering a sacrifice for sin was forever finished at the cross. It is there that Jesus in His Great High Priest role ministers or serves both God the Father and humanity (Matthew 20:28. Mark 10:45). Jesus could not be a priest offering gifts prescribed by the law since He is not of the tribe of Levi and the order of Aaron but of the tribe of Judah. Consequently, Jesus the Messiah ministers in the genuine holy places of the heavenly sanctuary where He offers our gifts and sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15) and not in an imperfect representation of the heavenly like Aaron. Nevertheless, the fact that there is a representation of the Heavenly Tabernacle on Earth provides evidence that there is a real one in Heaven.
But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6 NET)
Jesus is superior to Aaron since He serves in a superior sanctuary. Because He is superior to Aaron, the New Testament, which He inaugurated, is superior to the First or Old Testament under which Aaron served. Realize, the Letter of Hebrews was written to prove that the New Covenant (aka, New Testament) ratified by Jesus’ blood is superior to and takes the place of the First or Old Covenant (aka, First or Old Testament) ratified by animal blood. The logical argument utilized for this proof was that a superior artisan produces a superior product. The writer has shown that Jesus, the Messiah, the Founder of the New Testament is better than the founders of the First Testament (i.e., the Prophets, Holy Angels, Moses, Joshua, and Aaron). Consequently, the New Testament that Jesus brought in is superior to and takes the place of the Old Testament. (3)
For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. But showing its fault, God says to them, "Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. "It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant and I had no regard for them, says the Lord. "For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people. "And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, 'Know the Lord,' since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest. "For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer." When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear. (Hebrews 8:7-13 NET)
Since God instituted the First Testament, it was perfect for the purpose for which it was planned, and that was it pointed to Jesus the Messiah and His substitutionary atonement. However, the First Testament was faulty when it came to providing an atonement for sin, and that is the reason for the searching for a new or second Testament. However, the actual cause of its failure resided in the character of the people and not the law, which is perfect. (Psalms 19:7,8; 119:159,160. Romans 7:7-12) That is, the old covenant was faulty because it did not provide enablement for the people to overcome their inherent faultiness and live up to its terms and conditions. Again, the search for a new testament would not have been necessary if the First Testament had been faultless.
“Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord.“But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34 NET)
I will make a lasting covenant with them that I will never stop doing good to them. I will fill their hearts and minds with respect for me so that they will never again turn away from me. (Jeremiah 32:40 NET)
Furthermore, the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a new covenant made with Israel and Judah because the first one was faulty. The two names, Israel and Judah, refer here to the two parts of the divided nation, Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern. The First Testament was a covenant made with Israel, and the New Testament is also a covenant made with Israel. Realize God makes no covenants with the Gentiles as Israel is the chosen channel through which He brings salvation to the human race. (John 4:22-26. Romans 9:3,4) The First Testament consisted of a system of sacrifices that were symbolic in their meaning, whereas the New Testament has the need of only one actual sacrifice, the Lord Jesus at the Cross. The First Testament began with the shedding of the animal blood to make a covering for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and ended at the Cross. The New Testament began at the Cross and is an everlasting one. Hallelujah! (Hebrews 13:20)
The words “took them by the hand” speak of the fact that the First Testament was given to the people of Israel that were treated as minors. God put it under laws and regulations, and if Israel behaved itself, it was rewarded, and if it misbehaved, it was punished. Furthermore, Israel was taught by object lessons as one would teach a child, for instance, the tabernacle, priesthood, offerings, the gorgeous vestments of the high priest. In the case of the First Testament, God wrote His laws on tables of stone to be obeyed by the regenerated Israelite. In the case of the New Testament, He writes them on the mind and heart in the sense that He not only regenerates the individual, but He provides for the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1) in the believer, in whose ministry are added resources of grace which give the believer both the desire and the ability or power to do God’s will (Philippians. 2:12,13). The inward acceptance of God’s will involves the knowledge of God.
In the new covenant, all are to be ‘taught of God’ (Isaiah 54:13; John 6:45) and independent of the instruction of a privileged class. Under the old covenant, none but the educated scribe could understand the minutiae of the law with which religion was identified. The elaborate ritual made it impossible for the private individual to know whether a ram or a pigeon was the appropriate sacrifice for his sin, or whether his sin was mortal or venial without consulting a priest. Under the new covenant, intermediates were to be abolished as the knowledge of God was to lie in the heart alongside the love of parent or friend and would demand its expression no more external instruction than those primal, instinctive, and home-grown affections.
Under the First Testament, sins were brought to mind every year because of the constant repetition of the sacrifices. Under the New Testament, sins are forgotten, and for the reason that they have been paid for. God remembers them no more. In saying the word “new,” God through the prophet Jeremiah had even at that time made the First Testament old. That is, even in Jeremiah’s time, the insufficiency of the First Testament was recognized, and the need for a new one proclaimed.
For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. Hebrews 4:15,16)
Jesus the Messiah is our exalted and victorious High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) who is both God and Glorified Man. Furthermore, He is approachable and compassionate with an empathetic nature to the extent of entering into our experience and personally feeling our heartache and suffering. That is, our Lord’s appreciation of our weaknesses is an experiential one due to the fact that during His ministry on Earth He was tempted like we are but never sinned. Those that had only given intellectual assent to the New Testament truth, specifically the Hebrews in the time this letter was written, are encouraged to obtain salvation at the throne of grace (i.e., unmerited favor) since they had not yet obtained mercy (i.e., any and everything needed for saving humanity). Mercy was offered on the basis of Jesus the Messiah’s atonement and God our Father waits for people to come by faith and appropriate it before it is everlasting too late! (1)) Amen (6)
– The Tabernacle of Moses Series:
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part I: The Outer Court
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part II: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part III: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part IV: The Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part V: The Most Holy Place
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part VI: The Priestly Garments
- God’s Heavenly Pattern for our Spiritual Transformation – Part VII: Our Great High Priest
Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Burnt Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Meal Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Peace Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Sin Offering
- The Five Fire Sacrifices and Offerings of Israel – The Trespass Offering
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(3) Having shown that Jesus our Messiah is superior to the Prophets (Hebrews 1:1-3), the Holy Angels (Hebrews 1:4-2:18), Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and Joshua (Hebrews 3:7-13), in the first part of this book of Hebrews the writer proceeds to prove on the basis of Old Testament Scripture that Jesus is better than Aaron (Hebrews 4:14-8:6). Note these arguments ascended in importance from the prophets who gave the Word to Israel, the Word was given to the prophets through the disposition of the Holy Angels, Moses led Israel out of Egypt, and Joshua led the nation into Canaan. But all this would be of no avail if Israel did not have a high priest to mediate salvation. The High Priest Aaron and his levitical lineage in the First Covenant occupies the pinnacle of importance among the servants of God in Israel. The Book of Hebrews is not an argument the purpose of which is to prove that Christianity is superior to Judaism as seen in its Founder, Jesus Christ. Christianity refers to the Mystical Body of Christ of which He is the Head with the Body composed of all who are saved from Pentecost to the Rapture. It is important to note that the New Testament is not Christianity but rather it is the New Testament that made Christianity possible. The saints of the Church Age are saved through the Blood of the Sacrifice which was offered under the New Testament and that is the relationship between the New Testament and Christianity. Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 10). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(4) The recipients of the letter of Hebrews were being tempted to renounce their professed faith in Jesus the Messiah as High Priest, due to the persecution from apostate Judaism, and to return to the repealed sacrifices of the Jerusalem temple. The writer of the Letter of Hebrews, by the Holy Spirit, is exhorting them retain that faith which they confessed to possess in view of the greatness of their High Priest. But now the inspired writer confronts his Jewish readers with a most puzzling conception. It is found in the phrase, “Jesus the Son of God.” It is the same thing with which our Lord confronted the Pharisees when they asserted that Messiah would be the Son of David. He asked, “How then does David in spirit call Him Lord?” (Matthew 22:43). That which was involved in our Lord’s question was the incarnation of the Jewish Jehovah in the Person of the Messiah. Here the word Iesous (Ἰεσους), the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Jehoshua, would speak to the Jew of his God, the God of the Old Testament. But the name Iesous (Ἰεσους) had by this time acquired another particular significance, designating a particular Person, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Jehoshua, his (Israel’s) God was the Son of God, thus, God the Son. How could that be except there be more than one Person in the Godhead; and that Person become incarnate in human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, Deity and humanity united in one Person, the Jewish Messiah. Not only was He the High Priest, but He was Son of God, God the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the One who was rejected and crucified by the nation Israel, its Messiah. Could the Jewish mind give adherence to such doctrine and the Jewish heart give entrance to this Messiah? The test would be an encouragement to those of his Jewish readers whose hearts were ripe for salvation, to go on to a real saving faith in the Lamb of God, and would be the means of turning back to the act of apostasy, those whose sin hardened hearts would have none of the salvation Messiah had provided. As it is the same sun that melts the wax which hardens the clay, so it is the same Word of God that leads some on to salvation, and turns others who will have none of it away into outer darkness. (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 10). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
(5) A covenant is an arrangement between two parties where a testament, in the sense of a last will or testament, is the legal instrument by which something is bequeathed to someone. The words “covenant” or “testament” are from the same Greek words and refer in this epistle to one thing, the act of God providing for the salvation of the believing sinner through the blood atonement offered on Calvary’s Cross by the Lord Jesus. It is a covenant in the sense that it is an agreement on God’s part that He will give salvation to the sinner who will receive it by faith in the High Priest He has appointed. It is a last will or testament in the sense that God bequeaths salvation to the sinner who will receive it on the terms of the will, faith in the blood of Jesus. God, the divine Testator, dies to make the will effective. That is, the words “covenant” and “testament” are used of one thing in this book, viewed from two angles. (Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 10). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
(6) This article informed by; Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 10). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
(7) However, that leaves Enoch (Genesis 5:24. Hebrew 11:5,13. Jude 1:14-16) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) in non-compliance with scripture since they went to Heaven without dying. In addition, it is probable that God raised Moses from the dead and took him to heaven as well (Deuteronomy 34:5,6. Jude 1:9). I believe this because it was Moses and Elijah that appeared during the transfiguration (Mark 9:1-8) which implies that they both were already in Heaven (i.e., Moses was not in Paradise (1) with all the other pre-resurrection saints that had died). I believe that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses that will prophesy, be killed, resurrected, and caught up to Heaven during the Great Tribulation thus complying with every person must die once requirement. Note that the miracles the two prophets perform resemble those that Moses and Elijah performed during there time on Earth. (Revelations 11:1-12)
(8) The same Greek word is translated by both the words expiation and propitiation from time to time. But there is a slight difference in the terms. Expiation is the act that results in the change of God’s disposition toward us. It is what Christ did on the cross, and the result of Christ’s work of expiation is propitiation—God’s anger is turned away. The distinction is the same as that between the ransom that is paid and the attitude of the one who receives the ransom. For the word expiation the prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him. Together, expiation and propitiation constitute an act of placation. Christ did His work on the cross to placate the wrath of God. https://www.ligonier.org/blog/two-important-words-good-friday-expiation-and-propitiation/
(9) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (p. 236). Chicago: Moody Press.
(10) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 237–238). Chicago: Moody Press.
(11) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (p. 242). Chicago: Moody Press.(9)