Jesus is a Priest Forever

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Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:17). What does that even mean? Melchizedek is described earlier in the chapter as the “king of righteousness,” the “king of Salem,” and the “king of peace” (vs. 2). He is the one to whom Abraham paid tithes following his victory in rescuing Lot (Gen. 14:18-20). Due to the brevity of the historical record, of particular interest to the author of Hebrews is the fact that he is given neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:3).

Hebrews stresses the superiority of Christianity over Judaism by drawing comparisons between the two covenants. One striking difference is seen by comparing the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In this regard, Jesus is compared to Melchizedek to show that Christ’s priesthood is perpetual while to the Levitical priests were hindered both by death and human frailty. Since there is no record of the birth or death of Melchizedek, to the Jewish mind, he fulfills the image of a perpetual priesthood.

Those who claim Jesus as their priest today need to understand that such a priesthood would have been entirely impossible under the Levitical system. Hebrews 7:12 says, “when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” Why a change of law? Because Jesus “descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests” (Heb. 7:14). The Law of Moses specified that priests come from the tribe of Levi. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. Therefore, Jesus could not be a priest unless there was a change of law. So, Jesus is a priest forever, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek.

Today, Jesus is our great high priest. There is only “one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim. 2:5). Why turn to the false hope of human mediation when Jesus sits at the right hand of God and ever lives to make intercession for His people? (Heb. 7:25).

Glen Elliott
Greenbrier church of Christ
Greenbrier, AR

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