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THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD [SM136]
"Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek."--Heb. 6:20.
Melchizedek was the name of a remarkable person who lived in the days of Abraham, and of whom little is recorded in the Old Testament except that he was a king and a priest at the same time--a "priest upon his throne" --"King of Salem," which signifies king of peace, prince of the Most High God. He is brought to our attention in connection with Abraham's battling with the kings of the North, who had taken captive Lot and his family and his household stuff, at the time of the sack of Sodom. As Abraham returned from the battle he called upon this king-priest and presented to him a tithe of the spoil taken and received his blessing, partaking also in conjunction the symbolical bread and wine. It remained, however, for the Lord in His own due time, nearly two thousand years afterward, to explain to us by inspiration through the Apostle Paul the real significance of this event--that Melchizedek in this procedure typified the glorified Christ.--Gen. 14:18-20.
The Aaronic priesthood, instituted by Moses, of which the head was Aaron, having continued for more than sixteen centuries, was so well established at the time of the Apostle's writing that the Jews considered it the only priesthood. Hence, when Christ was preached to them as the real Priest of God, who alone had power to forgive sins through the merit of His own Sacrifice, the objection was raised that Jesus did not even belong to the priestly tribe, and hence that no power to offer sacrifice to God or to make atonement for sin or to forgive sin could reside in Him. Before the logical reasoners of the Jewish people
[SM137] could rightly appreciate the work of Christ on behalf of their nation and all the families of the earth, it was necessary that the Lord through the Apostle should point out to them that in the Divine Plan a still higher order of priesthood than the Aaronic was recognized; that, as our text declares, Jesus from the time of His resurrection and ascension to God has been the Chief Priest or High Priest of a new Order of Priesthood--styled by the Apostle Peter the Royal Priesthood.--1 Pet. 2:9. "AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK"
Every heathen religion has its priests; and so also amongst Christians, each denomination has its own priest. So strictly are the lines drawn that no Protestant would be allowed to preach from a Roman Catholic pulpit; and if by any inadvertence one did occupy it, a purification and reconsecration of the pulpit would be deemed necessary before it would again be used by a Catholic priest. The same rule holds with the Episcopal church-- a pulpit would be considered desecrated if occupied by a Protestant member of any other denomination, and a similar purification and reconsecration would be demanded by Episcopal law and usage. But God and the Scriptures recognize none of these priesthoods--neither the heathen nor the Christian; they are of men and by men. The Divine arrangement takes cognizance only of the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthood. Whatsoever is more than these or outside of these is more than God has predestinated, and outside the Divine ordination, and consequently improper, misleading, dangerous.
Following the Apostle's discourse, we hope to make clear to you that the Melchizedek Order of Priesthood, of which the Apostle declares that Jesus is the High Priest, has for its underpriesthood the true saints of God from Pentecost to the present time, of various nations, peoples, kindred and tongues, but in all a "little flock." We hope to show that although this priesthood may include
[SM138] preachers and public servants of God, it includes also the very humblest of the Lord's followers, who have His Spirit and are now laying down their consecrated lives in His service.
Going back we hearken to the Apostle's statement to the Jews in which he admits that Christ was not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah, and could not have been an earthly priest under the Divine arrangement; for the earthly priesthood was confined to Aaron and his sons. But, says the Apostle, the priesthood of Jesus is not an earthly one, but a Heavenly one. It is the risen, glorified Christ who is the High Priest of this higher order than Aaron's--this Order of Melchizedek.
PURPOSE OF A NEW PRIESTHOOD
The Apostle points out that the priesthood of Aaron repeated the typical sacrifices year by year, but that this evidently could not be all that God designed; for these repeated sacrifices did not abolish original sin, but merely covered or condoned it for the year for which they were offered, and the purpose of God as everywhere set forth was evidently larger and broader than this, eventually a complete cancellation of sin. Hence the Aaronic priesthood could not have been the end of the Divine purpose. The Apostle proceeds to point out that God had already decreed a new priesthood to be established in His own due time, and that this Divine purpose was plainly stated through the Prophet David, who, as the Lord's mouthpiece, declares, "Jehovah hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever, after the Order of Melchizedek." This is a part of the Messianic Psalm which opens with the statement, "Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. Jehovah shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion; rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power."--Psa. 110:1-3.
The Apostle's logic is conclusive with all whose eyes of understanding are opened. The priesthood of Aaron, which had lasted for over sixteen centuries, was some day to terminate, and a new priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek was to be introduced, and the Chief of this order was to be Messiah Himself. The Apostle shows therefore that the Divine purpose was that "better sacrifices" for sin should be offered, and that this meant the passing at the proper time of the typical Aaronic priesthood. He proceeds to argue that the Lord Jesus, having come as the High Priest of this new Order, has already offered Himself a sacrifice to God well pleasing, and that on the strength of this sacrifice all who believe on Him, all who accept Him, all who seek to flee away from their sins and to return to harmony with God, are privileged so to do. And not only so, but an invitation is given to the repentant believers whose sins are covered that they may become members of this antitypical priesthood-- members of the Body of Christ, the antitypical Melchizedek. --Heb. 10:19-25.
Along this line the Apostle admonishes the consecrated Gospel Church, saying, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the Heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our Order, Christ Jesus." (Heb. 3:1.) And in harmony with this the Apostle Peter, so far from claiming himself a pope, and so far from acknowledging any special clergy class in the Church, assures us that the entire Body of Christ, the entire company of consecrated believers, is a "Royal Priesthood." And be it noted that this royal feature differentiates the Melchizedek Priesthood from the Aaronic. Aaron and his sons had nothing whatever to do with the royalty of the typical Kingdom.--1 Pet. 2:9.
"A PRIEST UPON HIS THRONE"
In the case of Melchizedek as a type nothing is shown respecting sacrifice. He was not a sacrificing priest, but a blessing priest, empowered by his kingly office to give
[SM140] his priestly blessing. So Christ, as the High Priest of the Melchizedek Order, does no sacrificing, but is merely a blessing Priest. True, He sacrificed in the days of His flesh; as the Apostle declares. "He offered up Himself." It is true also that the followers of the Lord sacrifice themselves, as the Apostle suggests: "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God [in the forgiveness of your sins through faith in Christ] that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1.) But this sacrificing of Jesus and His followers is not a part of the Melchizedek type. As the Apostle points out of our Lord Jesus Christ, "though He were a son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. And being made perfect [in the resurrection as a New Creature] He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him; called of God, a High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek." --Heb. 5:7-10.
Similarly the Church, who will be the Royal Underpriesthood, are called upon now to prove their loyalty, their sincerity, by the things which they will suffer for righteousness' sake and in obedience to God in the present time when sin prevails. Not until these shall have proven their worthiness will they be glorified by the First Resurrection to become the Royal Priests, in association with the High Priest of the Melchizedek Order, to bless all the families of the earth during the Millennial Age. It is in accord with this that the Scriptures declare that this Melchizedek Order of priests shall be "kings and priests unto God, and reign on the earth."--Rev. 5:10.
The Apostle proceeds to show that both the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood are of Divine appointment. He points out that Aaron was called of God to be the head of the Aaronic Priesthood, and likewise Christ was also called of the Father to become the High Priest of the Melchizedek Order. "No man taketh this honor to himself but he that is called of God, even as
[SM141] was Aaron." So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest; but His High Priesthood came from God, who said unto Him, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten [born] Thee;" and again, "Thou art a Priest forever, after the Order of Melchizedek." As the Head of this Melchizedek Order came through Divine invitation, so all the members of the Royal Priesthood must be called of God. Hence the Apostle sought to find and to influence, not the whole world of mankind, but "as many as the Lord your God shall call" to this Melchizedek Priesthood.--Acts 2:39. THE TYPICAL MELCHIZEDEK
Lest his Jewish readers should think that the atonement of Aaron was more pronounced and therefore more authoritative than that of the Lord Jesus, the Apostle points out that the contrary of this is true--that Aaron was appointed without Divine oath, but that in the appointment of Jesus as the antitype of Melchizedek and the High Priest of this Melchizedek Order, God had pronounced Himself more emphatically than in respect to the Aaronic Priesthood by giving His oath, "I have sworn and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek." Here, then, the Apostle notes five significant items: (1) That God indicated a change of priesthood from Aaron to Melchizedek. (2) The latter was to be a greater and more important priesthood, as implied by the Divine oath. (3) It would come after and supersede the Aaronic priesthood, inasmuch as the prophecy respecting it came after the Aaronic priesthood had been long established. (4) It would be a perpetual priesthood, which should not be transferred to another. (5) It would be a higher priesthood, in that it would combine the priestly function of forgiveness of sin and instruction of the people with the kingly function of dominion and power.
Having established his argument that there must be a Melchizedek Order of priests, and that it must be higher
[SM142] than that of Aaron because of God's oath and because it would be the successor which would endure, the Apostle proceeds to point out that much of this was typified by the man Melchizedek, who was but a type of The Christ of glory--Jesus the Head, and the Church His Body. The Apostle says, "Now consider how great this man was unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." (Heb. 7:4.) The signification of this the Apostle amplified, showing that the Levites at that time were unborn, in the loins of Abraham; and that therefore Aaron and his sons, the Aaronic priesthood, acknowledged this higher priesthood of Melchizedek and gave tithes. The argument is a masterly one, and shows that as even in the type Melchizedek was higher than Aaron, much more would the antitypical Melchizedek be higher, more glorious, more powerful, more able to bless and to forgive sins. He proceeds to show that in other respects Melchizedek typified Christ. Would the Jews claim that under the Law every priest of the Aaronic order was obliged to show that he had a right to serve because of his genealogy, that his parentage must have been in the priestly family, and would they inquire then how could Jesus be a priest since He had no relationship with Aaron and had no parentage in that family? <% If special="heb7" Then %><% End If %><% End If %>
The Apostle's answer to such a query is that Melchizedek was without father or mother in the priesthood, nor could it be shown when his priesthood began or that it ever ended. This, the plain import of the Apostle's language, is somewhat veiled in the statement that Melchizedek was without beginning of days or end of years and without father or mother or children (in the priesthood). Thus the Apostle argues that God made Melchizedek a most graphic picture of Christ, whose authority as priest was not derived from either father or mother, and whose priestly office did not descend to successors, whose term of office is not limited by years, but is everlasting.
Thus he reasons that Christ's priesthood after the
[SM143] Order of Melchizedek, a priest upon His Throne, is an unchangeable one--one that will be maintained in perpetuity, until it shall have served its full purpose.<% If special="heb7" Then %> THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD TYPICAL
We have seen that our Lord was made a High Priest after the Melchizedek Order in His resurrection from the dead, a Spirit Being, far above angels, principalities and powers, and every name that is named. We have seen that the elect Church, the Royal Priesthood, are to enter upon their priestly office after sharing with Christ in His resurrection (Phil. 3:10), and be made "partakers of the Divine nature," glory, honor, immortality. (2 Pet. 1:4.) Thus we see that the Melchizedek Priesthood is merely prepared during this Gospel Age and is to do its work subsequently--during the Millennial Age. Then, as a Priest upon His Throne, our Lord shall be King of kings and Lord of lords to rule, to subdue, to put down all sin and insubordination, and as Priest to lift up and bless the whole world and heal it of its sicknesses, mental, moral and physical. Furthermore, we call to memory our Lord's promise that His faithful will sit with Him in His Throne--share His Kingdom honors and glorious work of uplifting humanity.--Rev. 3:21.
This beautiful picture of the Melchizedek Priesthood therefore grandly confirms the whole teaching of the Bible, to the effect that God is now gathering out of the world a Little Flock, the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, which, in association with the Lord, shall bring to pass "Times of Restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began." The world, the groaning creation, must needs wait in the Divine Plan for the "manifestation of the sons of God" in their Kingdom power and glory, the Royal Priesthood.--Rom. 8:22,19; Rev. 21:1-5.
What, then, shall we say of the priesthood of Aaron? Was it without typical signification? By no means. While it did not typify the glory of the Kingdom, it did in type
[SM144] set forth most distinctly the sufferings of this present time, necessary to precede the glory that shall follow-- "For if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him." Christ must needs suffer and enter into His glory as the Melchizedek Priest; and His faithful followers must walk in His steps and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, "Laying down their lives for the brethren."--2 Tim. 2:12; Luke 24:46; Col. 1:24; 1 John 3:16.
These "better sacrifices" of Christ and the Church the Apostle contrasts with the sacrifices of the Aaronic priesthood, so that we are on safe ground when we assure ourselves that the typical Atonement Day of Israel and its typical sin-offering represent the Sacrifice of Christ followed by the sacrifice of the Church, accepted as members of His Body. We have already seen on a previous occasion that the minutest details of the Atonement Day sacrifices, in Leviticus 16, found fulfilment in the experience of Christ and His faithful during this Gospel Age. The Aaronic High Priest having sacrificed, representing the death of himself and his associates, and having represented his change to a new nature by passing beyond the veil into the Most Holy, came out again and blessed all the people--representing the blessings that are to come to mankind through the new Priest after the Order of Melchizedek--as soon as the sacrificing shall all be finished and accepted.
THE GLORIOUS MORNING
As the eye of faith looks back over the centuries of this Gospel Age and perceives the Sacrifice made by our great High Priest and His entrance into glory, and as we perceive further the little thread of faithful, consecrated followers of the Lamb all the way through the centuries, and as we note in our day multiplying evidences that this Little Flock of called, chosen, faithful ones will soon have finished their sacrificing, and as we realize that soon they will experience their change from
[SM145] sacrificing priests, antitypical of the Aaronic, and "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," be changed to priests of the Melchizedek Order, our hearts are glad for two reasons: (1) We trust that some of us will thus shortly hear the Master's welcome voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of thy Lord," sit down with Me in My Throne--to bless all the families of the earth; (2) We realize that the glorification of the Church marks the time for the beginning of Divine blessing to return to Natural Israel, from whom in turn it shall flow to all the families of the earth.
Who that loves God and his fellowmen would not rejoice on learning of this gracious arrangement of the Divine Plan? Who that loves righteousness and hates iniquity would not be glad to welcome the New Dispensation, when Satan shall be bound and all the various deceptions by which he has enthralled the world shall be dissolved? Who would not be glad to know that the time is near at hand when the knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth so completely that none shall need say to his neighbor, Know thou the Lord, for all shall know Him from the least to the greatest? (Jer. 31:34.) Who would not be rejoiced that soon the confused Babel of various changing creeds will be silenced; and that, as the Prophet has declared, the Lord shall turn unto the people (the masses) a pure Message, and they shall all call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with one consent? (Zeph. 3:9.) Ah, truly! As the Lord's people now love to sing, "O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Savior, and my God," so the poor world will soon have the opportunity of singing much after the same strain when the blind eyes shall be opened and the deaf ears unstopped and all shall be brought to an appreciation of the Lord and of His merciful Plan.
Why not now? does some one ask. Because as the Lord declares, "As the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways, and My plans than
[SM146] your plans." As we come to understand and appreciate the Divine Plan we see that it is by far better than any earthly human plan. And, thank God! it is not in the power of either the friends or the enemies of the Lord to change His purposes one iota. He declares, "The word that has gone out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish that which I please and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
The Message sent during the Jewish Age was merely to take out a typical people, Israel after the flesh. The Message sent during this Gospel Age has been merely to gather the Elect, that they might participate in the sacrificing as antitypical priests like unto Aaron; and that thus they might be prepared to be, with their Lord, antitypical priests like unto Melchizedek for the work of the future, the blessing of the world. The Message of the future, as we have seen, will be "good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people"--restitution to human perfection, to all that was lost in Adam. But we remind you that while God has thus provided a great salvation and forgiveness of sins that are past for all mankind, His arrangement is for the punishment of every sin that is wilful, in proportion to its wilfulness.
We have heretofore seen that this signifies that some of the human family, having degraded themselves seriously with a measure of wilfulness, will have correspondingly the more steps to retrace in order to attain all that was lost and redeemed. It means a "just recompense of reward to every soul that doeth evil." It means an opportunity for a proportionate blessing, however, to each one who may have done the least kindness to any member of the elect Priesthood, even so much as the giving of a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple. We remind you further that in the Divine Word there is the assurance that those who continue wilfully obdurate and rebellious will ultimately die the Second Death, from which there will be no hope of recovery.
In other words, God is providing in Christ one full redemption from the curse that came upon Adam and his posterity; and this redemption, secured by the precious blood of Christ, must be made available to every member of the race eventually--made available by each being brought to a knowledge of the Truth. Then the responsibility will rest upon himself; and his eternal destiny will be such as his course shall merit--either life eternal or death eternal. For ultimately the Lord will have a clean universe. As it is written, "Every creature which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth heard I saying, Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."--Rev. 5:13.
In conclusion, dear friends, let us learn to abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good, as being the very soundest policy for the life that now is and for that which is to come. And those of us who have accepted the Divine invitation for joint-heirship with the Lord as Royal Priests, let us appreciate the grand privilege which is ours; and laying aside every weight let us run with patience the race set before us. Let us be joyful partakers in the sufferings, trials and oppositions which go to make up the sacrificing of this present time; and while partaking by faith of the glory to follow let us wait in patience, hope and trust for a share in the First Resurrection, when we shall see our Redeemer's face and share His glory.--1 John 3:1-3.
Kings for the promised Throne,
Crowns we shall wear;
Christ reigns, but not alone--
We soon shall share.
O ye despised ones, come!
Pilgrims no more we'll roam:
Sweetly we'll rest at home;
Jesus is there.