By Mark Scott
How long is forever? On this side of eternity, forever is difficult to define. Sometimes in the Bible forever just means a long time (Nehemiah 2:3; Psalm 13:1). Sometimes in the Bible forever means time unending (Psalm 29:10; 115:18). The Old Testament predicted several aspects of the Messiah. At the very least he was to be a king, a prophet, a sage, and a priest. Last week we discussed that Jesus is a great high priest; his priesthood also endures forever. The word forever is used four times in our text today.
Forever Priesthood Foreshadowed & Sworn
Hebrews 7:1-3, 18-22
Melchizedek was mentioned earlier (Hebrews 5:6, 10). Here in chapter 7 his significance is more fully developed. Melchizedek is a “type” of Christ in the Old Testament. A type is a prophetic symbol—a person, thing, or event that prefigures something or someone later. This strange person (who is only referenced in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews) is a kingly priest at another level. He illustrates Jesus’ forever priesthood.
Melchizedek’s name means king of righteousness. He is also known as the king of Salem (Jerusalem and a form of the Hebrew word for peace), and this Scripture calls him priest of God Most High. We first learn of him in Genesis 14. Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from the kings who had captured him, and while returning from that rescue, he was met by Melchizedek. Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek, and Abraham gave him a tithe of the spoils. We know nothing of Melchizedek’s father or mother, his genealogy is not known, and we know nothing of his birthdate or demise. He is not from the tribe of Levi, so his priesthood is at another level. In this sense his priesthood is a type of Christ’s. In Hebrews 7:4-17 Melchizedek’s greatness is seen in receiving tithes from Abraham and his tribe being different from Aaron’s tribe. In these verses we discern that his priesthood was a matter of the oath of God—not ancestry. God made a promise that the Messiah’s priesthood would be like that of Melchizedek’s.
God’s own name and character are on the line with this change of priesthood. When the priesthood changed there was also a change of the covenant. This theme will be developed in Hebrews 8–10. The new priesthood that Jesus ushered in would provide a better hope and a better covenant because God swore it so.
Forever Priesthood Made Permanent & Effectual
If Jesus’ priesthood is forever, then of course it is permanent. But if anyone had any doubts about the ongoing nature of Jesus’ priesthood, then the resurrection sealed the deal. Priests came and went. They were born, lived, served, and died. Physical death ended their service to God as priests.
But Jesus is not so hindered. Because the grave could not hold him, his priesthood is eternal. This allows Jesus in his resurrected state to do two things. First, he can save completely. This means that no one is outside of his reach, and it also means that Jesus never partially saves someone. Saved people do not experience just a part of Heaven. Second, his permanent priesthood means that he is always on duty. He is never AWOL. He always lives to intercede for them. This job Jesus shares with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). His “indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16) means that his saving and interceding ministries are always on. Jesus does not need to do what the levitical priesthood did. They did their tasks over and over again. Repetition was the name of their game. Their lives consisted of butchering animals, lighting lamps, washing themselves, and burning incense. Jesus’ character and his once for all sacrifice made his priesthood sufficient forever. His character is underlined in verse 26; five qualities are mentioned: holy, blameless, pure, set apart, and exalted. In contrast to all other priests, who were sinners, Jesus had only to make his sacrifice once since he had no sin.
Verse 28 pulls the whole text together. The appointment of the forever high priest brings the law to its intended goal, the priests to the conclusion of their ministry, and the oath of God fulfilled.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.