Hebrews 80 March 1, 2007
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
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We are in Hebrews 7. To understand what the writer of Hebrews is going to say here at the beginning, we need to go back a couple of verses to pick up his flow of thought in Hebrews 6:19-20. This is the conclusion of that exhortation section that began back in chapter 5 and goes through chapter 6. He concludes by saying…
NKJ Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,
NKJ Hebrews 6:20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Now if we look at this verse, I want to point out a couple of things I didn't cover in quite as much detail as we were wrapping that up. As the verse begins (and it is a fair translation in the English) we have that word hope in italics. That means that it is not in the original. Actually the original begins with a feminine form of the relative pronoun. The relative pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender. Antecedent is the word to which it refers. So it doesn't begin "this", it begins with the word "which". Which being a feminine relative pronoun must refer back to a feminine noun. The last noun in verse 18 is the noun elpis or hope. That is a feminine gender noun. So that's the reference there. That is why it is legitimate for the translator to bring that over for sake of clarity of reading. But, it should be translated "which hope". That is, the hope that we have just talked about.
An anchor is that which gives stability and certainty in the midst of storms. It is that which stabilizes us. It is that future expectation – living in the light of eternity as we have studied. As we make that future destiny so real to us that it stabilizes us in this present time. That is the 6th problem solving device that we talk about – that 6th stress buster – that personal sense of destiny. That future is so certain that no matter what happens today we can just relax and move right through it. It is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.
The verb there is eiserchomai which means to go into or to enter. But it is a participial form. It has a feminine ending which means that it is used as a relative participle to refer back also to "that hope." So it would be translated "and which hope enters the Presence behind the veil." What the writer is doing here is personifying hope as if it is a person. It is our hope that goes forward into the veil following (because that is the focus of the hope) the one who has been our forerunner, our predecessor, the one who has blazed the trail and entered the Holy of Holies. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. So the writer is saying that our hope is focused on Jesus Christ and it goes before us and it gives us certainty and steadfastness in this life because it is focused on the forerunner Jesus who has become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
This mention of the order of Melchizedek picks up the theme that he began to introduce back in verse 10, talking about Jesus as having been perfected.
NKJ Hebrews 5:9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
NKJ Hebrews 5:10 called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek,"
Now this theme related to the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ doesn't just pop up here in the middle of the epistle. It has been introduced gradually - step by step by step as you go through Hebrews. Back in Hebrews 2:17 we have the mention…
NKJ Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
If you remember when we studied Hebrews 2:10-17, the focus there was on the sanctification that had to occur in the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had to grow and mature. He had to go through suffering. He had to go through trials. He had to go through testing.
NKJ Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
That is in reference to the Father.
Perfect or mature through suffering.
Now the reason the Lord Jesus Christ had to go through that process is so that He would be qualified in His humanity because at the moment of the hypostatic union (at that moment of the incarnation when the eternal deity of the Second Person of the Trinity took to Himself the genuine humanity) that was to be the human part of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the instant that it was joined together, it would never ever separate. He would be in hypostatic union forever - the joining of perfect deity of undiminished deity with true genuine humanity forever. A billion years from now the Second Person of the Trinity is still going to be incarnate in a resurrection body forever and ever. He is elevated at the ascension above the angels, above all creatures. He is seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting the distribution of the kingdom that we studied in Daniel 7. At this position next to the Father, He is sitting on the Father's throne Revelation 3 and serving as a faithful High Priest. So this is His role. He began that work when He made propitiation for the sins of the people on the cross.
Then the next mention of His priesthood is in Hebrews 4:15-16. There the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is reminding his readers as he begins the next section. He is picking up the theme of high priest and he is weaving that in as a foundation of what he is going to say from 4:14 to 5:10. He begins with high priest and ends with Melchizedek and breaks off.
NKJ Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
A double negative in the English cancels each other out. What he is saying is that we do have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness. Why? Because, He went through all of those same tests in His humanity. He suffered. Whatever those adversities are (the kinds of adversities and temptations and testing that we go through) He went through as well. The only difference is that He doesn't have that internal fallen nature that is giving Him an attraction to the sin. But, He has to go through those same tests because He is going to show that a man utilizing the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God can surmount the testing as Adam did not. So in His humanity He has to handle this. So He is tempted in all points as we are. Because of His victory on the cross, because of His ascension to the right hand of the Father we can therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.
NKJ Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Now what has happened here? Coming to the throne of grace is not something that could happen in the Old Testament. It is entry into the Holy of Holies, the presence of God. That is exactly what is being described under a different metaphor in 6:20 where the forerunner has entered for us having become High Priest. Our hope can go in there. Our confidence can go directly to the Father because of what He has done in His high priestly ministry. He is a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Now why does he have to explain this? He has to explain it because he is writing to a bunch of Levites, probably, Levitical priests who were serving or had been serving in the temple in Jerusalem. They came to understand and accept that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. They had put their faith alone in Christ alone and they were saved. But, they were having questions now about the validity of their salvation and the spiritual life apart from the ritual and the priesthood of the Old Testament. They need to have that explained to them - how Jesus Christ can be can the High Priest. The writer is going to explain that this priesthood comes from this unique priesthood of Melchizedek in the Old Testament. So we look at verse 1 of chapter 7.
NKJ Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
The first thing we learn about him is that Melchizedek was a king. This goes back to Genesis 14. Let's hold our place here and turn back with me to Genesis 14. There are only 3 verses that mention Melchizedek in Genesis. Then there is one other verse in Psalm 110:1. That is it. That is all we know about Melchizedek. But, the writer of the book of Hebrews is going to take those 4 verses that we have from the Old Testament and build upon that an argument for the kind of priesthood that Jesus Christ has. (This is a great lesson on how to do theology and exegesis.)
Then we are told in verse 18 following Abraham's defeat of the 4 kings under the alliance of Chedorlaomer. On his way back from victory Abraham took a detour to Salem (which is another name for Jerusalem) to bring a tribute of 10% of the spoils to the priest-king of Salem.
NKJ Genesis 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
NKJ Genesis 14:19 And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
Notice the emphasis on creation.
NKJ Genesis 14:20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.
He is Abraham.
Then we are told that there was a little jealousy going on from the King of Sodom who wanted to have some of that for himself. This is our only reference, our only information other than Psalm 110 which references the Messiah. The Messiah would be after the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4.
You see this comes directly out of Genesis 14.
NKJ Hebrews 7:2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace,"
Melek is king. Melke means my king. Or it could be a construct - My king of righteousness or king of righteousness.
Shalom is the Hebrew greeting meaning peace. So Salem is a noun meaning peace. So he has two titles attributed to him that are similar and analogous to titles given to the Messiah, Jesus who is the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace as we see in Isaiah 9:6.
NKJ Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Corrected translation: Father of eternity (meaning that He is eternal).
So we see a parallel that is definitely drawn from the Scriptures between Melchizedek the King of Salem and Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.
Then verse 3 tells us that Melchizedek was…
NKJ Hebrews 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
That doesn't mean (as I pointed out last time) (We will go over this again. Everybody always has to) that he didn't have parents. It doesn't mean that he is the pre-incarnate Christ that he popped out of nowhere and disappeared. The writer is saying in the Scriptures, in the revelation of God – nothing is said about his parentage, nothing is said about his lineage, nothing is said about his genealogy, because those factors weren't significant to his priesthood. In a Levitical priesthood you had to trace your lineage back all the way to Levi. There were those who came back from the exile who were Levites but could not document their lineage. They were not allowed to practice serving as priests in the temple. That's the writer's point - the Melchizedekean priesthood is not based on lineage, not based on relationship to parents, not based on genealogy or any of these factors. We don't know when he was born. We don't know when he died because that is not relevant. He goes on to say that he did not have beginning of days or end of life in the revelation. He is not saying that Melchizedek was eternal because he was not. He was a man. We will look at some reasons why Melchizedek could not have been the pre-incarnate Christ before we are done. So we will begin with those first 3 verses and not get much further than that this evening.
We need to find out who Melchizedek is. There are six comparisons between Melchizedek and Jesus. The point here is to show the superiority and uniqueness of Jesus Christ. One of the things that made Him unique was His resurrection, that the tomb is empty.
Now of course I mentioned this last Sunday. I am sure some of you have seen some of these reports. There is going to be a special documentary put out on the Discovery Channel and some of the other channels this Sunday having to do with the fact that James Cromwell and another filmmaker Jacobovici who is a Canadian that they claim that they have found the tomb of Jesus. Let me give you 8 reasons why it is not the tomb of Jesus. You need to be forearmed in detail when you watch this.
- The Bible says that there were over 500 witnesses to the resurrected Jesus Christ. Now they are either having a mass hallucination (which can't happen) or you have 500 liars who are in a conspiracy together. That is not what happened. All you need is two witnesses to confirm anything legally. There were over 500 witnesses at one time to the resurrected Christ. That is not mentioning many of the other people to whom Christ appeared physically and bodily after the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:4-5 documents that. That whole section there documents the resurrection or lists them.
- Because the Apostle Paul, who hated all Christians with a vengeance sought to murder all Christians, saw the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and it completely changed his life. He spent the rest of his life defending the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching the implications and the doctrines related to the fact that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah from the Old Testament and died on the cross for our sins.
- The third reason that we know is that Jesus rose from the dead and that this ossuary is not what they claims it is because the rest of the disciples changed from cowards hiding from the government and from the religious authorities to leaders who were willing to risk their lives for a risen, ascended Lord. If you study the lives of the disciples, aside from the Apostle John (and there is some tradition that he was martyred, but probably not. He was probably the only one who died of old age) every one of those 11 disciples except for John gave his life for the gospel. Now would they give their lives for something that they knew was a fraud and false and that was nothing more than something they conspired to promote on the world? No, they wouldn't. One or two of them might, but not all of them would give their lives in horrible ways in several cases because they knew that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead.
- Because the resurrection of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecy that His body would not lie corrupt in the grave. It was foreshadowed and prefigured and prophesied in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be resurrected from the grave.
Those four have to do with the foundation – what the Bible teaches. That is all we need to know. But what about what they say?
- Names like Jesus, which in Aramaic is Yeshua, were common names. It was a name as common as James or Jim or William or Bill that you have today. In 1st century Judea there were numerous men named Jesus. In fact, the name of Yeshua has been found on 22 ossuaries to date. Just because you find the name Yeshua on an ossuary doesn't mean it is Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore the name of Joseph has been found on 45 ossuaries from that time period. The chances are in any family you are going to have several Mary's or Joseph's or Judah's.
- One of these ossuaries had the name Judah bar Joseph. Then another one has the name Jehudah bar Yeshua, meaning the son of Jesus. But you see Judah was the tribal name of one of Jacob's 12 sons. So, the tribal allotment of Judah was just to the south and bordered up against Jerusalem. In fact, Judah is a form of Judea. So Judah would be a common name that you would find for people in that particular area. Not only were Yeshua and Joseph common names, but also Judah was a common name. The other thing you need to know is that a number (I find this fascinating) of world class biblical archeologists – Jewish, non-Christian gentiles, as well as Christians – have come out and said that this is a bogus claim and that they are just trying to make money. In fact several of them who worked on the site (This isn't new. This may be new to you and it is the first time that I heard about it. This has been known to these archeologists who work in the field and who work Israel for 20 years) all dismiss it as meaningless and irrelevant. They never attached any significance to it whatsoever. In fact several of them have said that if you look at the inscription of the name of the ossuary that is supposed to be Jesus, it is not even clear that it is Yeshua. There is tremendous debate among them over that. Devers who is a retired (It is from an article that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday) professor of archeology at the University of Arizona who has worked for 50 years in biblical archeology is not a Christian. His name is William G. Dever.
He has been excavating in Israel for over 50 years says, "I am not a Christian. I am not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight. I just think it is a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated. He said that some of the inscriptions on these ossuaries are unclear. It is not easy to decipher them. There is debate over what the actually say. But all of the names are extremely common. You will find them in many families."
In my family it is confusing around Thanksgiving or Christmas because there were three Betty's in the family. So you know that it is no uncommon to keep running into certain names and certain generations.
Amos Kroner is a famous archeologist who was the original excavator of the tomb. He along with Joe Zias the former curator at the Israeli Antiquities Authority have both rejected these claims. Kroner told the Jerusalem Post that the documentary is just nonsense.
Zias sent an email to the Washington Post and said, "It is a hyped up film that is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.
Jody Magness an archeologist the University of North Carolina at Chappell Hill expressed her irritation about these claims at as news conference saying, "Why are they releasing this to the public in a film like this instead of the proper procedure of peer-reviewed findings to the scientific community?"
She said that the filmmakers set it up as if it was a legitimate academic debate when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in the archeology of this period have flatly rejected this.
- The seventh reason (part of what I have just quoted.) is that even secular atheistic scholars and archeologists reject the claims that these ossuaries have anything to do with the Jesus of the Bible.
- Only wealthy people could afford to have a rock hewn tomb. Remember the tomb that Jesus was laid in was owned by Joseph of Arimathea. Only the wealthy could afford a rock hewn tomb. If this is Jesus family, His tomb would have been in Nazareth which was the family home or in Capernaum which is where He lived during much of the time of His ministry - not in Jerusalem. That was not His home area. So it is ridiculous to think that Jesus' family would possess wealthy tombs in an area where the wealthy were buried in Jerusalem.
Okay, back to the superiority of Jesus and Melchizedek. There are 6 comparisons made in this section between Melchizedek and Jesus.
- They are both king-priests. They are both royal high priests. Melchizedek is referred to as a king-priest. That is the point related to Jesus. They were king-priests as opposed to the Levitical priests.
- They both blessed Abraham. When Abraham returned from the victory, Melchizedek went out. He took bread and wine. That doesn't have anything to do with communion. It was just a standard Middle Eastern meal. He went out to have fellowship, to have communion – to have that time together with Abraham and to bless him, to commend him to God for his victory. God also, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ also had blessed him with the Abrahamic Covenant.
- Both of them had superior authority with their priesthood. Abraham was one of the wealthiest men of the ancient world. He recognized the authority and superiority of the gentile priest-king and brought him a tribute after his victory. Jesus Christ is seen here as having the superior priesthood because He is the proto-type for the Melchizedekean priesthood. It is not the other way around. The word that is used here in the Greek aphomoioo – to be made like or to resemble. Look at the end of verse 3
NKJ Hebrews 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually..
Who was made like the Son of God? Melchizedek was made like the Son of God. That is one of the reasons that Melchizedek is not the pre-incarnate Christ. He is said to have been made like, to resemble the Lord Jesus Christ. So who is the proto-type? The proto-type is the Lord Jesus Christ. Melchizedek was just a finite representation that was designed historically and within the context of revelation to portray and symbolize certain aspects of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, both had a superior priesthood and authority.
- Both were independent high priests. By that I mean that there was no tribal or genealogical connection. They were independent of any other structure. Both Melchizedek and the Lord Jesus Christ are independent high priests. The Levitical priesthood was based on descent from the tribe of Levi and the high priest had to be a descendent from Aaron according to Numbers 16.
- Both priesthoods were timeless. They were not bound by time whereas the Levitical priest served only from the time they were 25. When they were 50 they had to step down according to Numbers 8:24-25. So both the Melchizedekean priesthood and the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ are unlimited. They are not bound by any time qualifications.
- Both priesthoods serve Gentiles and Jews. They were universal priesthoods whereas the Levitical priesthood was only directed to Jews.
This is the point that the writer of Hebrews is making in these first three verses. There is a comparison between the king-priest Melchizedek and the king-priest, the royal High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Melchizedek who is the finite representation of the priesthood that would be that of the Lord Jesus Christ. So Melchizedek was designed to give us a finite picture that would represent the kind of priesthood that Jesus Christ had.
That sets us up for the next verse which says…
NKJ Hebrews 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.
The emphasis was on his leadership, his authority, his superiority even over someone as great as Abraham. We will pick that up next time when we look at this issue of tithing, giving a tenth of the spoils.