This letter is intended for the Hebrews who were inclined to follow the Levitical line as established by Moses, which was still in place at the Temple. But Jesus was of the line of David, and his linage was traced back to King David through both his father and mother. Because Joseph accepted Jesus as his son, Jesus had the legal title of king through Joseph, as well as through Mary.
But Christ had no linage to Levi, who was the lawful High Priest. This chapter implies that those to whom it was addressed desired to continue following the Levitical priesthood. The writer proves that Christ had to replace the Levitical priesthood. The Father could have easily inserted the line of Levi into Christs linage with a marriage, which would have made him an acceptable heir through Levi as the High Priest for the Jews, Hebrews.
But the Father did not. So there could be no doubt that Christ was the promised Messiah, the promised Son of King David, and heir to his throne over Gods people.
Christ could not have any connection with the Mosaic order of Aaron and Levi, and offer gifts according to the Levitical law. For no carnal Levitical gift nor sacrifice could justify the sinner before the Father. Christ could not be the High Priest of God in heavenly places under the law, so Melchisedec is used to prove that the Levitical order is now useless, and Christ is Gods High Priest of the New Order.
V. 1, this is the sum: The author sums up what he has said in the previous chapters where, using Psalms 110:4, he established a new world order under Christ, and established Christs eternal priesthood. Christ replaced the old priesthood with his new priesthood; the old priesthood had to pass from man to man as corruption and death took its toll. But Christs priesthood is everlasting. The old priesthood could only be a shadow of the atoning sin offerings for Gods old nation Israel to the Father, and it had to be repeated yearly. But his people need a High Priest in the heavens at the right hand of all power and majesty in royal glory, where he ever liveth to make intersession for his people. The prophecy of Psalms 110 required both a King of the Whole Earth and an eternal Mediator for his people. Levi could not fulfill that need.
Let us be reminded: the Old Covenant was sealed with the blood of bulls and goats, all of which were a shadow of things to come. The Old Covenant was with the old national Israel, though which he desired to show the world His grace, mercy and love, and his hatred for sin. The New Covenant was sealed with the blood of the Lamb of God, which was the reality of the Old Covenant shadow. The New Covenant was and is made with the New Israel of God, the Gospel Church, though which he desires to show his grace, mercy, power and love to the world.
Judea and Israel had no Hebrew kingdom in Christs day, for they were ruled by an Edomite king of the family of Herod. (See Rulers of New Testament times, as mentioned in the January 16, Examiner.) Because of corruption, Romes rulers in Israel appointed the High Priest.
Though the Hebrew priest was controlled by Rome, he was still of the line of Aaron. (Notice that the destruction of Jerusalem forever erased the documentation back to Aaron and his priesthood.)
Psalms 110:4 proved Christ as both Gods only appointed High Priest and King, who owed loyalty only to God. He was not subject to Rome; in fact, he claimed superiority over both the line Levi and Rome. He made it clear that he answered only to the Heavenly Father. Claiming superiority over the Levitical priesthood invoked the Hebrew High Priests anger, so they conspired for his death, and killed him.
V. 2. Seated in the heavens at the right hand of the throne of Majesty on high, Jesus Christ is Gods minister, the High Priest, of the heavenly sanctuary; that is, of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.
The earthly tabernacle was only a reproduction of the eternal heavenly one. It was build in terms understandable by men, yet its true meaning was in heaven. Accordingly, it had to be inferior and subordinate to the heavenly sanctuary. The Hebrew Christians were turning their backs upon the true sanctuary built by God for one build by men that was inferior in every way.
We do not know what that heavenly sanctuary is like, because the model is not a literal reproduction; rather, it is a reproduction in terms understandable to men. The meaning of the tabernacle is found in heaven. The implication is clear: the tabernacles built by men are inferior to and also very much subordinate to the heavenly sanctuary. Though mens tabernacles are very inferior, they still must follow the heavenly plan.
Gods eternal High Priest could not be in any way under the authority and jurisdiction of the line of Levitical priesthood, for that line was always under the control of sinful men. But Christs priesthood was and is after the order of Melchisidec, who had no earthly lineage.
V. 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices, wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
The requirement of the Levitical High Priest was to offer gifts and sacrifices to God, as he represented the people and made peace with God on their behalf. Thus, he had to have something to offer. That something was clearly spelled out in the Levitical laws and ordinances.
Christ as High Priest also had to have something to offer for the sins of his people, but unlike the Levitical priest, his gifts and sacrifices could not be presented in type in the earthly tabernacles Holy of Holies, but had to be made personally before God in the heavenly sanctuary, a place where the Levitical priest could not go.
The earthly priest had to go yearly, but the heavenly priest had to go only one time, for his offering was an eternal offering.
We are told that Christs offering and sacrifice were absolutely necessary, and could not be made in an earthly tabernacle. His offering had to be separate from the Jerusalem Temple and separate from the Levitical priesthood.
We see from Hebrew is that the Hebrew Christians wanted to limit Gods working to the Temple and through the line of Aaron. But Gods powerful and effective activity could not be limited to the temple any more than we can limit Gods workings now to the church.
I have been around many pastors who were convinced that God can only work through a local New Testament church (especially a local Baptist church; John R. Rice, storehouse tithing).
V. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest seeing as there are priests that offer gifts according to the law. Christ was not a Levite, so he could not be a Levitical Priest, and offer gifts according to the law.
We often read of men and women sacrificing themselves, even
to the death, for their cause. Those of us old enough to remember
Viet Nam cannot forget the picture of a Buddhist priest in his
orange robe setting himself on fire in the middle of the street.
Totally convinced he was right, he sacrificed himself as a burnt
sacrifice to promote his human cause.
?As a Levitical priest, it would have been not only useless, but illegal for Christ to offer himself on the cross as a sacrifice. He could only offer himself as the Lamb of God, the legitimate sacrifice, in the heavenly tabernacle. Thus, the author continually emphasis the point that Christ had no part of the Levitical priesthood.
Because He was Gods High Priest, according to another order, Jesus Christ was not limited to Levitical functions. Moreover His Priestly function was beyond the man made sanctuaries, nature, and function. We have an actual frame of reference, and it was therefore a sacrifice in terms of the heavenly sanctuary. The Levitical Priesthood is simply a stand in for the heavenly one. These Aaronic priests serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.
V. 5, Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
The tabernacle and its service that Moses was to duplicate exactly was an earthly physical shadow of what was to be revealed in Christ.
This passage is found in Ex 25:40; and the apostle adduces it here on purpose, so that he might prove that the whole service, according to the Law, was nothing more than a picture as it were, designed to shadow forth what is found spiritually in Christ. God commanded that all the parts of the tabernacle should correspond with the original pattern, which had been shown to Moses on the mount. And if the form of the tabernacle had a reference to something else, then the same must have been the case as to the rituals and the priesthood; it hence follows that there was nothing real in them.
This is a remarkable passage, for it contains three things entitled to special notice. First, we hence learn that the ancient rituals were not without reason appointed, as though God did by them engage the attention of the people as with the diversions of children; and that the form of the tabernacle was not an empty thing, intended only to allure and attract the eyes by its external splendor; for there was a real and spiritual meaning in all these things, since Moses was commanded to execute every thing according to the original pattern which was given from heaven. Extremely profane then must the opinion of those be, who hold that the ceremonies were only enjoined that they might serve as means to restrain the wantonness of the people, that they might not seek after the foreign rites of heathens. There is indeed something in this, but it is far from being all; they omit what is much more important, that they were the means of retaining the people in their expectation of a Mediator. There is, however, no reason that we should be here overcurious, so as to seek in every nail and minute things some sublime mystery, as Hesychius did and many of the ancient writers, who anxiously toiled in this work; for while they sought refinedly to philosophize on things unknown to them, they childishly blundered, and by their foolish trifling made themselves ridiculous. We ought therefore to exercise moderation in this respect, which we shall do if we seek only to know what has been revealed to us respecting Christ.
Secondly, we are here taught that all those modes of worship are false and spurious, which men allow themselves by their own wit to invent, and beyond Gods command; for since God gives this direction, that all things are to be done according to his own rule, it is not lawful for us to do anything different from it; for these two forms of expression, "see that thou do all things according to the patterns," and, "See that thou do nothing beyond the pattern," amount to the same thing. Then by enforcing the rule delivered by himself, he prohibits us to depart from it even in the least thing. For this reason all the modes of worship taught by men fall to the ground, and also those things called sacraments which have not proceeded from God. Thirdly, let us hence learn that there are no true symbols of religion but those which conform to what Christ requires. We must then take heed, lest we, while seeking to adapt our own inventions to Christ, transfigure him, as the Papists do, so that he should not be at all like himself; for it does not belong to us to devise anything as we please, but to God alone it belongs to show us what to do; it is to be "according to the pattern" showed to us. (Calvin)
First, the Mosaic tabernacle was a representation not of a literal temple in the heavens, but representative of the heavenly Christ.
Second, the ceremonies were meant to keep alive their expectation of the Mediator to come.
Third, all man-invented means of worship are forbidden. Gods standard of worship is fixed, and less or more than his standard is an abomination to him. For man to establish a higher standard for worship means that man is attempting to be more holy than God.
Fourth, all man-made aids used to worship God are forbidden.
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the [mediation] law for righteousness to every one that believeth, for he is the substance and end of the sacrificial and mediation law. The old priesthood is finished, replaced by the perfect priest. His perfect priesthood would have been impossible if he had remained on earth.
He is the Mediator of the better covenant: a covenant that related rather to the heart than to external observances. (Barnes)
We all know churches that are very dogmatic that their people obey every jot and title of their established bi-laws. They have replaced the spirit of the law with the letter of their law, and will exercise church discipline against those who do not abide by the letter. Our Lord had very harsh words against that attitude, saying,
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Mat 23:23)
The Tabernacle could not reproduce anything that might be literally in heaven. Rather, it reproduced its meaning as established in heaven. That meaning focused on the future atonement through Christ. So obviously, the heavenly sanctuary was far superior to the earthly sanctuary.
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:(Deut 5:8)
The priests of Christs day were wickedly corrupt and were priests only with pagan Romes approval. The Hebrews are being told that Christ is the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary, placing him far superior to any earthly High Priest.
Though lengthy, here is an interesting observation about the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem:
After the Babylonish captivity, the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel,but with vastly inferior and diminished beauty. The aged men weptwhen they compared it with the glory of the former temple, #Ezr3:8,12. This was called the second temple. This temple wasoften defiled in the wars before the time of Christ. It had becomemuch decayed and impaired. Herod the Great, being exceedinglyunpopular among the Jews, on account of his cruelties, was desirousof doing something to obtain the favour of the people, andaccordingly, about sixteen years before Christ, and in the eighteenthyear of his reign, he commenced the work of repairing it. This hedid, not by taking it down entirely at once, but by removing one partafter another till it had become in fact a new temple, greatlysurpassing the former in magnificence. It was still called by theJews the second temple; and by Christs coming to this templethus repaired, was fulfilled the prophecy in #Hag 2:9. On thisbuilding Herod employed eighteen thousand men, and completed it so asto be fit for use in nine years, or about eight years before Christ.But additions continued to be made to it, and it continued increasingin splendour and magnificence, till ANNO DOMINI 64. John says, #Joh2:20, "forty and six years was this temple in building." Christ wasthen thirty years of age, which, added to the sixteen years occupiedin repairing it before his birth, makes forty-six years.(Barnes)
The Temple was much decayed before Christ came, and Herod rebuilt it to glorious splendor, so it became one of the most beautiful structures on earth. Thus, the Father provided a beautiful new building from which his Son could minister. After Christs earthly ministry was over, the Father destroyed it in 70 AD. So it only stood in its beauty for 46 years.
Yet the subjects of this letter were tempted to return to the corrupt temple activities, which shows us the almost unbreakable hold that traditions can have on people. How many do we know who are determined to remain in and support corrupt churches under apostate teachers, because their grandparents and parents grew up there? The work of Christ has freed his people from the vain traditions of the elders.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast outall them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tablesof the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,(Mat 21:12)
The High Priest demanded that instead of the worshipper bringing his own sacrifices, he must purchase them at the Temple, and the High Priest had the monopoly on the sales. The High Priest also forbad any coins having the image and circumscription of Caesar on them, so the worshipper had to exchange them for the temple coins.
Obviously, in the exchange, the High Priest and his friends made a huge profit by selling the sacrifice or sacrificial animals, and exchanging the coins. Thus, in one year, a high Priest could retire a multi millionaire, which is why Rome put a limit on their term. According to the Old Testament, the High Priest held the office for life, but with this racket they were so powerful that they were wealthier than the Roman administration in that area, and were seen as a threat to Roman power and authority. So they were limited to one year.
Hence, they were extremely wealthy Roman puppets. V. 1, however, the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, is set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. He is God the Son, God incarnate, and is our actual High Priest.
The question to the Hebrew Jewish reader is, Why are you returning to a known corrupt High Priest who is established by the very Roman government you hate? You prefer that corrupt and oppressive High Priest because he is legal, of the line of Levi, and reject Gods High Priest?(Mat 23:23)
We have seen many times over that men prefer rascals to godly men who follow Romans 13:1-4. Rascals will allow men to peruse their sin; they are less threatening to their way of life.
In Exodus 25:40, Moses is commanded to strictly adhere to the pattern revealed to him on Mount Sinai. This clearly means that the priority in all things belongs to Gods command-word. Man is not left to his own devices in his worship nor in his service to God in his life here on earth.
But at the heart of sin is mans desire to be his own god; his own source of law, his own source of morality. His desire is to determine for himself what is good and evil, and to make his fiat word law. Sin reveals itself in every area of activity: thoughts, family, occupation, religion, politics, and the state. Man is determined to remake the world in his own image, and in doing so, he is destroying the world around himself.
Fallen man rejects Gods word of righteousness and justice for his own word of what is right and just.
How many court cases have we seen that turn the guilty party lose because a letter of mans law was not exactly followed?
It is illegal to even carry anything for self-defense in Denmark.
Denmark: Girl faces charges for protecting herself against
A Danish teenager who said she was sexually assaulted now faces a fine for using pepper spray against her attacker. The man who pulled her to the ground and tried to undress her fled the scene without any charges.
Neither churchmen nor political men want a firm, unchangeable law-word from God. They resist Gods laws taking priority over their own laws and traditions. Not only in State courts but in Church courts, it has become routine to refuse to hear appeals for godly justice.
Particularly, in civil trials, the emphasis is on procedure; Were the proper legal steps taken, and if not, then the guilty are set free. Guilt or ininnocence has nothing to do with justice, but was every i dotted, and every t crossed? If not, then the guilty are free.
Both in the civil realm and the religious realm, Gods justice is not longer sought after; in fact, it is resisted.
The issue in Hebrews was not over the corrupt priesthood at the Temple, for the corruption was well known. The issue was over Is Christ the legal heir to the priesthood? Is the letter of the law being followed? The concern is over Is it legal, rather than Is it according to Gods word?
I have been amazed and shocked at the supposed Bible believing "Calvinistic, reformed" churches that demand more of their people than is required by Gods law. They demand unquestioned obedience to their rules and regulations, which have no Scriptural basis. All who fail to follow those rules and regulations are considered anathema, and are placed under church discipline. They then tell the "disobedient" that they are in sin. But they define sin as an unwillingness to follow their rules and regulations that have no Scriptural basis. Out of several Bible believing churches with which I am personally familiar, three have established a standard for sin with no Biblical foundation.
To make it even worse, any effort to leave from under those churches unbiblical authority brings open hospitality from the church leadership. "If you leave, you are in sin. You are rebelling against the pastors authority." Others say that If you do not follow our form of worship, you are not a New Testament church.
Hebrews makes it clear that there can be no justice in man-made and enforced rules, regulations and laws that have no Biblical basis.
Is it any wonder that a serious exegesis of Hebrews that might offend the people is avoided?
1 Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect
of persons judgeth according to every mans work, pass the
time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know
that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and
gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your
fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained
before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these
last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised
him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and
hope might be in God.