Question & Answer Forum: High Priest

In what sense was Melchisedec “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb 7:3)?

The majority of the Hebrew letter is taken up with priesthood. Not only was it central to the Jewish religion, but it was fundamental to the Jews’ claim of acceptance with Jehovah. Through its visible rites and ceremonies the Jew found some kind of assurance of special favor with God, and if doubts arose, he had only to walk to the gate of the temple and watch the daily practices of the functioning priest. But, in turning to Christ, the Jewish believer turned his back on this, apprehending salvation’s blessings by faith, enjoying spiritual promises and possession of “better things,” things heavenly and eternal. But, by adversity and affliction, he felt ostracized from his former compatriots and friends, and, unless firmly grounded in the Scriptures, was tempted to turn back to the former things, which appealed to visual and tactile senses.

To strengthen and confirm this former Jew, the Hebrew author writes to assure him of the better things, the superiority of the faith that rests upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

Foremost of these is the priesthood that is invested in Christ. Three times he quotes from Psalm 110:4, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 5:5; 7:17, 21). The first quote shows that this declaration refers to the Son of God. The second shows that the Levitical priesthood under the law has thus been annulled. The third shows that the establishment of Christ’s priestly position is by the highest authority, the oath of Jehovah. In each of these three points, the fact that Christ’s priesthood can never be superseded is emphasized. Note: “abideth a priest continually” (Heb 7:3); “the power of an endless life” (7:16); and “hath an unchangeable priesthood” (7:24).

In expounding this Melchisedec priestly order from Genesis 14:18-20, the writer points out three contrasts with the Levitical order:

1) Melchisedec was a king as well as a priest (Heb 7:1);

2) Aaron’s right to priesthood was by genealogy; and

3) Levitical priesthood is seen to be inferior to Melchisedec in that Abraham, Levi’s great-grandfather, gave him tithes.

It is the second point that relates to our question. It is certainly unusual in Genesis, a book of genealogy containing both names and length of life, that neither the roots nor offspring of Melchisedec are recorded. This is not an error. He was not born without parents. And this is not a “Christophany,” but, omitted by the Holy Spirit is the record of his father’s and his mother’s names, his grandparents, his birth date, and his death date; this in anticipation of Melchisedec being type of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. Under the law, the Aaronic priest must have: a) descended from Levi, and b) the office could be passed only to his blood offspring. But in the case of Melchisedec, his authority was not vested in ancestry and his actions were not committed to posterity. His position and power were unique and distinct from every other form of priesthood.

All of these features speak of the fullness and appropriateness of the Savior-Priest Who acts for us, in the presence of God.

Dr. Paul Robinson

When did the high priestly work of Christ begin, and will it be eternal?

The high priestly work of Christ began when He sat down on the right hand of God. Hebrews 8:4 states plainly, “If He were on earth, He should not be a priest.” He was unqualified in humanity because He came through the tribe of Judah, not Levi (Heb 7:14). Then Hebrews 6:19-20 says that His priestly place is within the veil, that is, in relation to His exaltation. Because He is of the order of Melchisedec, His is a bloodless priesthood. Melchisedec offered no sacrifice but brought food to succor Abraham, blessing to strengthen him, a fresh revelation of God to empower him, and presented worship to God for him.

The prayer of John 17 is rightly called the “high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus.” The reason is because of the little preposition “to” in verse 1 – “to heaven.” It is the preposition eis, meaning “into,” and anticipates His place in heaven at the Father’s right hand after His ascension. This prayer allows us to see what the Lord Jesus is doing there on our behalf now.

The references to “offer” in Hebrews (9:25; 10:14) are not referring to priestly work. In Leviticus, it was the Israelite who brought his offering to the tabernacle and shed its blood. It was not the priest, unless for his own sin. The slain victim was then given to the priest to prepare and present the parts appropriately – that was priestly work.

Israel was already redeemed before the Sinai covenant, and the Day of Atonement, prominent in Hebrews, was to maintain their nearness to God. So, the redemptive work of Christ was upon earth, while His high priestly work is now in heaven.

There is no direct statement about the terminus of Christ’s priestly work, but rather, inference. The references to “a priest forever” do not mean it is eternal, but, noting the context, it will not be replaced by another, because of its completeness. Aaron was replaced, and his sons, by reason of death; this represented a serious deficiency in their priesthood. Not so with Christ – He continues, perfectly complete. This is why there can be no return to a Levitical order with sacrificing priests. Ezekiel’s vision must therefore refer to Zerubbabel’s temple, or be taken as types.

Priesthood exists to succor and sustain us because of human weakness and deficiencies, i.e., infirmities (Heb 4:15). This is what Melchisedec did for Abraham. But, when we are constantly with Christ in our glorified bodies these will be past, and we will not need a priest. As for millennial saints upon earth, they will need His priestly care. But, God will create a new heaven and a new earth, eternal, where human conditions will no longer prevail.

Dr. Paul Robinson