Our greatest help when
the pressures of persecution arrive is the high
priesthood of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews
tells us more about the deity and priesthood of
Jesus Christ than any other book in the Bible. The
author has already demonstrated that Jesus more than
fulfills the whole Messianic prediction of Jesus
Christ as King and Priest. His priesthood was
appointed by God. God has sword an oath establishing
Jesus in this priestly office which is permanent and
filled by the One who has made a single,
We have perfect access to
the God the Father based on the atoning sacrifice of
Jesus Christ. The grand theme of Hebrews is Jesus
Christ who is superior to the prophets, the angels,
Moses, Aaron, and the priesthood of Levi because of
a better covenant, a better sanctuary, and a better
sacrifice. Why would anyone want to return to the
old law, the old covenant, and old sacrificial
system because God has replaced it with something
The author of Hebrews has
now arrived at the central theme of the epistle.
Hebrews chapter seven begins the heart of the
doctrinal section of this profound homily where he
develops the high priesthood of Christ. This is a
topic he introduced early on in 2:17; 3:1; 4:14;
5:6, 10. This is the longest single expository
passage the author develops and is based on Genesis
14:17-20 and Psalm 110:4.
was superior to the Levitical priesthood of Aaron.
Therefore, the priesthood of Jesus Christ is
superior in its order to the old covenant and old
As we examine this
beautiful passage let's keep in mind that where
there is light there are bugs, lots of them. Jesus
Christ is the only fulfillment of this Scriptural
type of Melchizedek. There are a lot of cults that
latch on to the name Melchizedek. One cult even
makes it into a priestly line with their own
ancestral genealogy. There is no such thing as a
Melchizedek Priesthood that is passed on to
religious orders. Jesus Christ never ordained any
individual to be a priest in the order of
Melchizedek. Peter, James and John did not ordain a
cult leader into the order of Melchizedek. John the
Baptist did not ordain the cult leaders for Aaronic
We need to limit our
interpretation to the information provided in the
Scripture and be careful of reading into it anything
that is not there.
In order to appreciate
our great High Priest and His ministry we need to
understand the significance of the mystery of the
person of Melchizedek.
The Ancient Background
of Melchizedek (7:1-3)
The author of Hebrews
shows us that the Law proves that there is a greater
priesthood than that of Aaron under the old law.
"For this Melchizedek,
king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met
Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of
the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham
apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was
first of all, by the translation of his name, king
of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which
is king of peace. Without father, without mother,
without genealogy, having neither beginning of days
nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he
remains a priest perpetually" (Hebrews 7:1-3,
NASB95). All Scripture references are from New
American Standard Bible, 1995 Update unless
I understand the word
"Melchizedek" to be a proper name. It means
"righteous king." He is a king of righteousness of
Salem. Salem was the old name for Jerusalem meaning
"founding of peace" or "possession of peace" or city
of peace. We know this from Psalm 76:2. "His
tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is
in Zion" (Psalm 76:2).
It was common in ancient
times for individuals to combine the roles of king
From Genesis 14:23-24 we
know Melchizedek was a priest because he blessed
Abraham, and Abraham paid tithes to him of all of
the spoils he had taken in war.
Melchizedek is a priest
of the Most High God. He worships the same God as
did Abraham. "Most high" is a description of the
majesty, power and authority of God. He is the
Sovereign God. He is the one whom we worship.
It is important for the
author of Hebrews to stress that Jesus was a member
of Melchizedek's order, not Aaron. "Jesus has
entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high
priest forever according to the order of
Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:20).
Melchizedek was a type of
Jesus Christ in the sense that he was both king and
priest. He was a king of righteousness over the city
of peace. He is a type of Christ, whose person and
work fully achieves true righteousness and true
peace. Christ is our righteousness; Christ is our
There is no indication
that Melchizedek was an angelic being or a
Christophany. All indications in the Bible are that
he was a historic human being who was clearly a type
pointing to and finding fulfillment only in the
Messiah Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter called Jesus
"the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14).
By satisfying the
righteousness of God as our divine substitute, Jesus
Christ provides perfect peace with God for all who
believe on Him. "Therefore, having been justified by
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ" (Romans 5:1). Christ reconciles all things
to Himself, "having made peace through the blood of
His cross" (Colossians 1:20). Christ is our peace
Some scholars see this
passage as a Christophany, the pre-incarnate
appearance to Abraham by the second person of the
God head. But Melchizedek loses the typology when
you interpret him as a Christophany. It is best to
interpret one or the other and the evidence all
tends toward a type. There is probably no reason to
interpret Melchizedek as a supernatural, mysterious
This the first priest
mentioned in the Bible. Melchizedek appears out of
nowhere. He is described in the Scriptures as
having no known genealogy. There is no account of
his descent, or of the beginning and end of his
life. He is "without father, without mother, without
descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of
life" (Hebrews 7:3). Melchizedek simply appears for
a moment in time, and then vanishes from our sight,
never mentioned again for another thousand years
until King David writes Psalm 110:4. Then he is not
mentioned for another thousand years until the
writer of Hebrews picks up his pen. It is
significant that Melchizedek's parentage is not
recorded in Genesis. This does not mean he had no
parents, but it is simply not recorded in history.
The silence points to a greater truth about Christ.
The story of Melchizedek brings out great
theological truths about our greater High Priest.
Please remember that it
is not the type that determines the antitype, but
the antitype determines the type. Jesus is not
portrayed after the pattern of Melchizedek, but
Melchizedek is "made like unto the Son of God" (Heb.
The historical account in
Genesis 14:18-20 depicts Melchizedek as a royal
priest reigning in the city of Salem, known later as
Jerusalem. Of interest to Bible scholars is the fact
that the book of Genesis is filled with genealogies,
whereas Melchizedek, in spite of his importance, has
no record. He simply appears for a moment, and then
vanishes from sight. He is described in Genesis as
being "without father, without mother, without
genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end
of life." This is what makes him an excellent
type of our ever-living eternal Savior and High
This does not mean that
he was a biological abnormality or even an angel in
human appearance. The important thing is the account
given of Melchizedek in the Scriptures and what is
not said in silence. The silences of Scripture were
as much due to the divine inspiration as were its
statements. Melchizedek appears as a living man,
king of Salem and priest of God Most High. Then he
disappears. He represented the eternal Son of God.
In the record of his life
Melchizedek is indeed an appropriate type of Christ
as the eternal Son of God who has "neither beginning
of days nor end of life." As the king of
righteousness He is exalted at the right hand of God
the Father. As our great high priest He "abides a
priest continually." The type Melchizedek remains a
priest continually for the duration of his
appearance in Genesis, but his antitype remains a
priest continually without conditions or limitations
upon Him. The antitype Jesus Christ is our eternal
high priest without any qualifications whatsoever.
In His eternal being the
Son of God has reality, as Melchizedek has
typically, "neither beginning of days nor end of
life." He is exalted at the right hand of the Father
in heaven. He "abides a priest continually."
Melchizedek remained a priest continually for the
duration of his appearance in the biblical
narrative. However, the antitype Jesus Christ
remains a priest continually without qualification
The divine commentary on
this great passage in Genesis makes it very clear
that Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest of whom
Melchizedek was a type. Hebrews chapters five
through ten explain how the priesthood of Jesus is
superior to Aaron and the Levites. The whole
emphasis of Hebrews is on a better priest, a better
covenant, a better sanctuary, a better sacrifice and
consequently better promises. Jesus is acclaimed the
perpetual High Priest "after the order of
Now, if Melchizedek was
greater than Abraham, his priesthood must be greater
than a priesthood, which traces its descent from
Abraham. Abraham recognized Melchizedek's
superiority by giving Melchizedek tithes and
receiving his blessings. The priesthood of
Melchizedek enjoys higher status than the Levitical
priesthood in Hebrews. Jesus was from the tribe of
Judah, not from Levi. He could never serve as a
Levitical priest. Moreover, no Levite could ever
serve as the Messiah King.
The perpetual priesthood
of the Messiah was confirmed by a divine oath: "The
LORD has sworn, and will not change His mind: Thou
art a priest forever." The order of Levi had many
priests in number, because they continued to die
off. "The former priests, on the one hand, existed
in greater numbers because they were prevented by
death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand,
because He continues forever, holds His priesthood
permanently. Therefore He is able also to save
forever those who draw near to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them"
(Hebrews 7:23-25). Jesus' eternal priesthood is
similar to Melchizedek who had no descendants, and
there were no priests to follow him. Melchizedek is
"made like unto the son of God." The likeness of
Melchizedek is to Christ in His divine eternal being
person as the Son of God, not as his human incarnate
life. In His divine nature the preexistent Son of
God was and remains eternal. The eternal Son of God
"abides a priest continually."
How then is Melchizedek
greater than Abraham and the priestly tribe of Levi?
No one is denying that
Abraham was a great man of God.
"Now observe how great
this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a
tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of
the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office
have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from
the people, that is, from their brethren, although
these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose
genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth
from Abraham and blessed the one who had the
promises. But without any dispute the lesser is
blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men
receive tithes, but in that case one receives them,
of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to
speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received
tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins
of his father when Melchizedek met him" (Hebrews
Remember, genealogy was
important to the Jewish people. The Levitical system
made the priests' pedigree of great importance. All
of the priests had to be able to prove they were
descendants of the priestly family of Aaron or they
were excluded from priesthood (Lev. 21:16-24; Ezra
2:62). That fact makes Melchizedek stand out in this
passage. He was not a Levite.
It is true that the
descendants of Abraham paid tithes to their priests,
the sons of Levi, but the emphasis is on how Abraham
paid tithes to Melchizedek. Melchizedek bestowed his
blessings on Abraham, and Abraham gave tithes to
Melchizedek. Abraham recognized the superiority of
Melchizedek's order by paying tithes to him. The
contrast is really between Aaron, a descendant of
Abraham and Melchizedek.
The principle to keep in
mind here is the greater people always bless the
lesser people. Therefore Melchizedek blessed Abraham
and is therefore superior over Abraham. Melchizedek
is the greater and Abraham the lesser. Abraham
experienced this blessing from God.
In the presentation in
Genesis Abraham, Levi and the Aaronic priests all
died, and Melchizedek lives on. There is no record
of his death in Genesis on purpose. The silence of
the record furnishes the basis for the typology.
Therefore, Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, Levi
and the Levitical priesthood.
What was true of
Melchizedek as a type is far greater in a fuller and
more literal sense of the person and work of Jesus
Christ. The timelessness of the priesthood is what
Melchizedek resembles the Son of God. "He abides a
priest continually." "He holds His priesthood
permanently, because He continues forever" (Heb.
7:24 ESV).The priesthood of Jesus Christ does not
pass on to another precisely because it is a
"And, so to speak,
through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid
tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father
when Melchizedek met him" (Hebrews 7:9-10). Keep in
mind the culture during the time of the writing of
Genesis. Back then people regarded a descendent as
in one sense participating in the action of his
ancestors. Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek even
though he would not be born a century later. In
fact, Isaac has not even been born yet. He was so to
speak still in the loins of Abraham when Abraham
paid tithes to Melchizedek. In the ancient way of
thinking Levi, the head of the priestly tribe of
Israel, had not been born, but he was involved in
everything Abraham did.
Nowhere in the Bible is
there any evidence that Melchizedek conferred his
priesthood on Abraham when he paid his tithe to him
or any other person. Nowhere is there any Biblical
claim that the Aaronic priesthood was ever
incorporated into a Melchizedek priestly order. This
is nonsense that cults teach. The author of Hebrews
says, "Jesus, on the other hand, because He
continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently"
(Hebrews 7:24). Jesus continues forever, so His
priesthood is untransferable" (Goodspeed). The Greek
word aparabatos, literally is
"untransferable," and carries the note of finality.
"Priesthood unchangeable and therefore not liable to
pass to a successor" (Thrayer's Greek-English
Lexicon). This is the only place where this word
is found in the New Testament. The priesthood of
Melchizedek is the peculiar possession of Jesus
Christ alone. It cannot be transferred to another.
The priesthood of Jesus Christ consummated the
Aaronic priesthood. It terminated the Levitical
order. The High Priesthood of Jesus Christ resides
in the Son of God and cannot be transferred. There
is no other priesthood or priestly order.
We will observe later in
Hebrews 7:11-28 the superiority of Christ's
priesthood which is according to Melchizedek. The
superiority of Melchizedek over Levi demonstrates
the superiority of Christ to the Levitical system.
We can turn to our great High Priest with full
assurance and security knowing He is ever ready
under all conditions to listen to our intercessions
and plead our case before the Father. Who is more a
priest of God Most High than our Lord Jesus Christ?
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. A word of caution.
Keep in mind that where there is light there are
bugs, lots of them. The only fulfillment of this
Scriptural type of Melchizedek is Jesus Christ.
There are a lot of cults that latch on to the name
Melchizedek and make it into a priestly line in
their cult. There is no such thing as Melchizedek
Priesthood that is passed on to religious orders.
Jesus Christ never ordained any individual to be a
priest in the order of Melchizedek. Peter, James and
John did not ordain a cult leader into the order of
Melchizedek. John the Baptist did not ordain the
cult leaders for Aaronic offices.
The great truth is every
believer is a priest. The New Testament teaches the
universal priesthood of believers. Each believer in
Jesus Christ can come to God in prayer, in his own
right, and that he can speak about his Lord to his
fellowmen. You do not have to join a cult to be a
priest! This is your right and privilege as a true
Christian. Moreover, it is not limited to gender.
Every believer, men and women, are priests. It is
not an order; it is a privilege. The term "priest"
is never used in the New Testament of a minister or
order in the church. It was never introduced into
the church. Having risen from the dead Jesus Christ
is the priest forever.
2. We have a great
High Priest who is always ready to intercede on our
behalf. He is in the presence of the God the Father
right now listening to our prayers. He is waiting
for you to call upon Him right now.
3. There is no "if"
attached to justification or eternal life because
they are free gifts received upon repentance and
faith. How tragic when we attach "works salvation"
or "works sanctification" to God's finished work.
Peace with God is based upon the righteousness of
God in Christ Jesus. "Being justified by faith, we
have peace with God." Are you claiming the great
promises and blessings of God by trusting in His
4. Have you ever
really believed on Jesus Christ? Have you really
been saved? Do you know you have been saved? Perhaps
you are asking how can I really know I am saved? The
Bible is very clear about how to be saved. Every
individual is by nature sinful. We are far from God.
The problem is how to do we deal with sin. The
message of Hebrews is so important to us because it
tells us how God Himself has dealt with our sin
problem. The sinner receives salvation as a free
gift from God. This is why it is salvation by grace.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and
that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not
as a result of works, so that no one may boast"
(Ephesians 2:8-9). No one can boast. It is not a
The Bible is very clear
that salvation is by grace alone because man is a
sinner and he cannot save himself. God does for the
sinner what the sinner cannot do for himself. God
forgives our sins based upon the perfect sacrifice
Jesus Christ made for the sinner. A great exchange
has taken place because Christ died in the sinner's
place on the cross. God provided the Lamb of God who
would die for our sins. God Himself provides Christ
as the One who would die on the cross in our place.
He "bore our sins in His body" (1 Pet. 2:24). He
died "the righteous for the unrighteous" to bring us
to God (1 Pet. 3:18). "He [God the Father]
made Him [His Son, Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to
be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God looks on the believing sinner as if he has
always been righteous and has always done what is
right. God declares the believing sinner to be just
in His sight. Only grace can do that. The sinner is
cleansed and forgiven by God because Christ died in
his place. God provided a Savior to die in our
One of my daughters was
saved memorizing Isaiah 53:5-6. "But He was pierced
through for our transgressions, He was crushed for
our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being
fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us
has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused
the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." (Isaiah
53:5-6). She realized that the prophet Isaiah was
speaking of Jesus Christ, and she accepted as a fact
the Christ died for her.
Then, perhaps you ask,
how can I be saved? The Bible says, "Believe in the
Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
What does it mean to believe? It is not something
you have to psych yourself up to do. It is not
psyching yourself up to some highly emotional
religious experience. The Holy Spirit works in our
hearts and minds to enable us to understand what we
need to believe to be saved.
Jesus said, "For God so
loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but
have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into
the world to judge the world, but that the world
might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17).
True faith involves
believing something about yourself; you are a
sinner. True faith involved believing that Christ is
the Son of God who died in your place and paid the
penalty for you sins and rose from the dead. Faith
is an act of the mind, the will and the heart. It is
the whole person trusting in Christ to save you for
all eternity. It is trusting in what God had done
for you in the death and resurrection of Jesus
Here is what God promises
you: "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as
Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him
from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart
a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and
with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation"
Yes, saving faith is in
part an act of your mind, and in part an act of your
emotions or your heart, and it is an act of the
will. God the Holy Spirit works in your person to
bring you to trust in Christ alone for salvation.
Have you ever believed in
Christ? If you have never received Him as your
Savior, you can right now. Just pray to Him, "Lord,
if I have never received you, I receive you right
now. I am trusting you as my Savior."
7:1-20 The Greatness of the Melchizedek Priesthood