Division III. Chaps. 4:14-10:39

The Priesthood of the Heavenly Sanctuary Superior to that of Aaron, Resting on the Better Sacrifice of Christ Jesus

Subdivision 1. Chaps. 4:14-7:28
The Enthroned Priest, after the Order of Melchisedec, though of the Pattern of Aaron

We are now to consider the Priesthood of Christ, a precious and wondrous theme meaning much for all believers during His present session at God’s right hand in Heaven, but something into which Jewish believers could enter with peculiar interest because of their former relationship to the earthly sanctuary and the high priesthood of Aaron and his sons.

There are those today who deny utterly Christ’s priestly service on behalf of the Church. They say (to use the exact language of one of the teachers of this school), “Christ is not my High Priest; He is a High Priest for Israel, not for the Church which is His Body. All believers now are part of the High Priest and it will be our place to intercede for Israel by and by.” What an absurd obsession must he be laboring under who can use such language! Christ, the Head of the Body, the Church, is one aspect in which our blessed Lord is presented in the Word, but Christ as the High Priest is another aspect altogether. As members of the Body we are seen in a peculiar relationship to Him which does not involve the thought of failure or infirmity. But as a pilgrim people passing through a sinful world, we have a Great High Priest ever representing us before God in Heaven and ministering to our needs as they arise from moment to moment. To rob the Christian of this blessed truth is to leave him poor indeed. But that teaching is just part of an ultra-dispensational system which is soul-withering in the extreme, and occupies its votaries with fine distinctions that are often thoroughly unscriptural, instead of with Christ Himself and His work on our behalf.

The division upon which we now enter, extending from ver. 14 of chap. 4 to ver. 39 of chap. 10, is by far the largest part of the epistle, and, as already intimated, it opens up to us a vast system of precious truth, namely, the Priesthood of the heavenly sanctuary, a Priesthood far superior to the Aaronic system, not only because of the more excellent character of the Priest Himself, but because of the infinitely better sacrifice upon which it rests, the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all upon the cross for our sins.

Properly speaking, priesthood has to do with the heavens. Our blessed Lord was anointed to fulfil three offices—those of Prophet, Priest, and King. While to a certain extent these offices overlap, yet generally speaking we may say that He was Prophet on earth, He is Priest in Heaven, and He will reign as King when He returns in glory. This, however, is not to deny that He was just as truly the King when He presented Himself to Israel in the days of His flesh. He was rejected in that special character when they exclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar,” thus fulfilling the expression in the parable, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” And so too it was as High Priest that He lifted up His eyes unto Heaven and offered that wonderful intercessory prayer recorded in John 17. And as High Priest, fulfilling the type of the great day of atonement, He offered Himself to God as a sacrifice on our behalf. Then, too, we see Him in the role of Prophet when, on Patmos Isle, He appeared to the beloved apostle and gave him a marvelous revelation concerning things which must shortly come to pass.

The high priest of the Old Testament must of necessity be a man, one who could enter into the trials of his brethren, and so our Lord Jesus has already been demonstrated to be true Man as well as very God, that He might thus enter practically into all the sorrows and difficulties of His people. This is emphasized for us in the first section of the present division.

Section A. Chaps. 4:14-5:10.
The Man in the Glory, our Great High Priest

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of, grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him; called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.”

I have quoted the entire passage in order that we may not lose sight of the connection of its various parts. First observe that in ver. 14 our Lord is spoken of as a Great High Priest, great in the dignity of His Person and in the perfection of His character. He has passed into (or, literally, through) the heavens, as the high priest of old, having sacrificed at the altar, passed through the court and the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies. So our blessed Lord, having died upon the cross, has passed through the lower heavens surrounding this earth which we call the atmosphere, in which the birds fly, which are often spoken of as the birds of the heavens; on through the stellar heavens, the created universe stretching through apparently illimitable space; up and on into the Heaven of heavens, the immediate dwelling-place of God, where He has taken His seat as Man upon the eternal throne. There He sits exalted, Jesus the Son of God, the entire title speaking most blessedly of His humanity and divinity. In view of His session there at God’s right hand, we are encouraged to hold fast our confession. It is generally recognized that this is a better translation than profession, as in the A. V. We may profess what is not true. We confess what is real.

Our High Priest then is not One whose heart is indifferent to our circumstances; not One who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is as truly human as we, and in the days of His flesh He was tempted in all points like ourselves, though apart from sin. The expression, “yet without sin,” has frequently been taken to mean, “yet without sinning,” as though it simply implied that He did not fail when exposed to temptation, but the exact rendering would be “sin apart.” That is, His temptations were entirely from without. He was never tempted by inbred sin as we are. He could say, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” When we are tempted from without, we have a traitor within who ever seeks to open the door of the citadel to the enemy. But it was otherwise with Him. If any ask, How then could His temptations be as real as ours? let us remember that when temptation was first presented to Adam and Eve, they were sinless beings, but being merely human, they yielded and plunged the race into ruin and disaster. Christ was not only innocent but holy, for He was God as well as Man.

“Tempted in all points” means of course that appeals were made to Him by Satan from the three standpoints whereby alone any of us can be tempted: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Tempted on these three points, Eve capitulated completely. “She saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food” —the appeal to the lust of the flesh; “it was pleasant to the eye”—the appeal to the lust of the eye; “and a tree to be desired to make one wise”—the appeal to the pride of life. She failed on every point. To our Lord in the wilderness the same appeals were made. “Make these stones bread”—an appeal to fleshly desire; “he showed Him all the kingdoms of earth in a moment of time”—the lust of the eye; then in the suggestion that our Lord should cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to be borne up by angels before the wondering eyes of the populace, we have the appeal to the pride of life. But He met every suggestion of evil by the Word of God. And now as the enthroned Conqueror, He sits exalted on the right hand of the Majesty on high, interceding for us, and we are bidden to come boldly unto the throne of grace there to obtain mercy because of failure, and find suited grace for seasonable help when exposed to temptation.

As we enter chap. 5 we are reminded that the high priest was taken from among men and set apart to minister on their behalf in things having to do with God. He was to present his brethren’s gifts and sacrifices for sins. Note the distinction. On the cross our Lord presented the sacrifice for sins. In Heaven now, He offers our gifts of worship and praise.

The earthly priest, because himself a man and as infirm as any of his brethren, could have compassion on the ignorant and on those who wandered from the path of rectitude. Conscious of his own failures, it was necessary that he should offer a propitiatory sacrifice for himself as well as for the people. In this we see the superiority of our great High Priest, who needed no offering for Himself, but gave Himself in love for others.

In ver. 4 we are reminded that no man was entitled to constitute himself a high priest. He became such by divine call, as in the case of Aaron who was chosen of God and set apart for this high office. Even so, Christ did not make Himself High Priest, but God the Father recognized Him as such when He declared in the words of Psalm 2, “Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee.” His Priesthood, however, was not of the Levitical order but of a different character altogether, even as it is written in Psalm 110:4, “Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” What is really involved in this we shall see when we come to consider chapter 7. It is enough to point out here that Melchisedec was recognized as priest of the most high God centuries before the Levitical priesthood came into existence. This latter, like the legal covenant with which it was connected, came in only “by the way,” and had its place until the Son, who was to fulfil the Melchisedec type, should come.

In vers. 7 to 10 the Spirit again emphasizes the reality of His Manhood and His participation in all the sinless experiences of His people. “In the days of His flesh,” when He was here on earth in human condition, He trod the path of faith and took the place of dependence on the Father, “offering up prayers and supplications,” accompanied by “strong crying and tears, unto Him who was able to save Him out of death.” For, be it observed, He was not saved from dying nor did He ever pray to be saved from death, nor did He fear death. He came into the world to die, for that very purpose; but He was brought up from death, being raised by the power of God. What a testimony those tears were to the reality of His Manhood! Three times we read of His weeping. He wept at the grave of Lazarus as He contemplated the awful ravages that death had made, tears of loving sympathy. He wept as He looked upon Jerusalem and His prophetic soul saw the tribulations through which the devoted city must pass. And He wept in Gethsemane’s garden as His holy soul shrank from drinking the cup of divine indignation against sin, when He should hang upon the cross. While the cup could not be averted, nevertheless He was heard “for His piety,” that is, not as some have said, in the removing of that which He feared, but rather because of His godly fear, His reverence for the Father’s will. And thus He who is the Eternal Son who never knew what subjection meant, became Man, and as He trod the pilgrim path of suffering and rejection down here, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. It is not that His will had to be subdued, but that from the moment when He assumed humanity He entered into new experiences, and He who had always commanded learned practically what obedience meant.

And thus being perfected as the Captain of Salvation, according to chap. 2:10, which we have already considered, He has become the Author of eternal salvation unto all them who follow Him in the obedience of faith, having been saluted of God in resurrection as High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.

How carefully the Holy Ghost guards against the least suggestion of defilement in His nature while insisting upon the reality of His humanity. Great indeed is the mystery of godliness, for He, the Holy One, has been manifested in flesh. And now as the exalted Priest, He enters into all the sorrows of His people, sympathizing with them in all their infirmities. He does not sympathize with our sins, and indeed, we would not wish Him to, but He does feel for us in all our weakness and is waiting to supply needed strength for every trial.

Section B. Chaps. 5:11-6:20
Warning Against Apostasy. Safety Only in Resting upon the Word of God

We are now to consider one of those portions of the writings of “our beloved brother Paul,” as Peter calls him, “wherein are some things hard to be understood, which those that are ignorant and unstable wrest to their own destruction.” Probably there is no part of the Word of God that has stumbled immature and uninstructed Christians like that which is before us. Therefore the need of examining it with the utmost care.

The closing part of chap. 5, vers. 11 to 14, is plain enough. Immediately upon bringing in the name of Melchisedec the apostle declares: “Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” The truth of the Melchisedec priesthood of our Lord Jesus would be most unpalatable to Jewish tastes, and difficult of apprehension where one was under legalistic bondage. We have only to consult the book of Acts, particularly in connection with Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, to realize how backward thousands of Hebrew believers were in the years immediately preceding the destruction of the Holy City and the manifest setting aside of the temple ritual. Those who, for the time that had elapsed since their conversion, ought to have been well able to teach others, were themselves needing instruction in the most elementary truths of the Word of God. They had not even grasped the distinction between Israel’s hopes which are earthly, and those of the Church which are heavenly. Neither had they realized the transitory and shadowy character of the Levitical economy in contrast with the permanency of the Christian revelation. They were ignorant of the first principles of the oracles of God, still requiring milk and unable to digest strong meat. They were babes in the truth when they should have been mature believers. The time had come to insist upon the setting aside of Judaism and going on to the full truth of Christianity. And so it is to this great step they are called as the sixth chapter opens.

Let us be very clear as to this. The urge of the Spirit here is not to leave earlier Christian experiences and go on to a deeper work of grace, as some put it. Neither is it to cease from being occupied with the elementary truths of Christianity and go on to deeper things. It is a call to leave the typical for the actual; the shadow for the substance; the partial revelation of Judaism (using this word in its very best sense) for the full unfolding of the truth of the new dispensation. Judaism is called “the word of the beginning of Christ,” as in the marginal reading of the first part of ver. 1. This of course includes the entire Mosaic revelation, the teaching of the prophets, and the ministry of John the Baptist. “The law and the prophets were until John, but now the kingdom of God is come and every man presseth into it.” In six items the Spirit of God epitomizes these preliminary principles whereby the godly in Israel were prepared for the coming of the Christ. These are:

    1. Repentance from dead works.

    2. Faith toward God.

    3. The doctrine of baptisms; or, literally, a teaching concerning ceremonial washings.

    4. The laying on of hands (in connection with the sacrificial offerings).

    1. Resurrection of the dead.

    2. Eternal judgment.

Here then we have all that was basic in the former dispensation.

Throughout the Old Testament and in the ministry of John the Baptist, the people were called to repentance from dead works and urged to put their faith in God, the God of Israel. Through the ceremonial baptisms or washings of the law (as in chap. 9:10, 13) the people were taught the need of cleansing, in order that they might have fellowship with God, a cleansing which was from physical defilement alone, “the putting away of the filth of the flesh,” as Peter puts it. The laying on of hands has no reference whatever either to the laying on of the apostles’ hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit as in Acts, or to ordination to the Christian ministry, as many have supposed. There is no doctrine of the laying on of hands to be found anywhere in the New Testament. Practice and doctrine are not the same thing. But under the Levitical economy when the offerer laid his hands upon the head of the sacrifice which was presented to God on his behalf, he was picturing a tremendous truth upon which this Epistle strongly insists. It was the identification of the offerer with the victim, and practically involved the transference of the offerer’s sins to the offering which was put to death in the stead of the sinner. Resurrection of the dead is a cardinal Old Testament doctrine, denied indeed by worldly-minded Sadducees, but insisted upon by the Pharisees, and recognized by the apostle Paul as eminently scriptural, when he declared himself in this respect still a Pharisee after he had been converted to Christ for many years. Eternal judgment, too, is part of the former revelation. “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Eccles. 12:14). Now let us note the contrast between these six items and the outstanding truths of Christianity. In the later revelation we have:

    1. Repentance toward God (Acts 20:21).

    2. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

    3. The cleansing of the conscience from dead works to serve the living and true God by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

    4. The one offering of our Lord Jesus Christ which which every believer is fully identified.

    5. The out-resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3:11, Gk.).

    6. No judgment for the believer in Christ.

Note how vividly the contrast is developed in the New Testament.

The believer not only repents from dead works, but there is a complete change of attitude toward God. Faith is now in the Lord Jesus Christ definitely set forth as the sinner’s only Saviour. No outward cleansing will suffice; no washings with literal water or sprinkling of the blood of animal sacrifices, but cleansing from every sin by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the washing of water by the Word applied in the Spirit’s power. In place of the laying on of hands upon oft-repeated sacrifices, the believer can now say in the words of the well-known hymn:

“My faith would lay her hand
On that blest head of Thine;
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.

“My soul looks back to see
The burden Thou didst bear,
When hanging on th’ accursèd tree,
And knows her guilt was there.”

Then we have today the blessed unfolding of the truth that there are two resurrections; not as some put it, a general resurrection of the dead at the last day, but the resurrection from among the dead at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for all His own. And as to judgment we now know, or at least we should know, that the believer shall not come into judgment but has already passed out of death into life. It is, then, to this full unfolding of New Testament truth that these Hebrew believers are called to “go on.” This is Christianity, and Christianity is here designated as “perfection,” distinguishing it from the imperfect or partial revelation of former days.

This, then, clears the way for the perplexing passage in vers. 4 to 8. There were many Hebrews who in the beginning professed to acknowledge the Messiahship of Jesus and were eye-witnesses of the marvelous things that took place at Pentecost and afterwards. But as the Lord did not return and the promised Kingdom was not immediately established, it was easy to understand how many of these, if lacking personal faith in Christ as Saviour, would eventually give up the Messianic confession and go back to Judaism which they knew to be a divinely revealed religion. This was a very serious thing, and yet it was something to which all these Hebrews would be exposed if they did not make a clean break with Judaism and go on to the perfection of Christianity. As to those who had already apostatized, it was too late to help them. They had made their choice and acted accordingly; and having experienced so much that was new and wonderful and then turned away from it all, they would be the hardest people on earth to change again. It is impossible, we are told, to renew again to repentance those once enlightened. It is important to notice that the word “renew” does not imply, as J. N. Darby has pointed out, a renewal or change, but to make what is entirely new. This could never be true again of those who had given up their Christian profession. It is not a definite statement that there is no possible hope for the recovery of such, but it is a declaration that they could never now come into all the blessing of Christianity as a new thing. They had already tried it out, they would tell you, and had deliberately given it up. Such must be left with God, whereas those who really valued the truth were urged to press on to fuller knowledge.

Some object to the thought that anyone could go as far as these apostates had gone without being regenerated, but ver. 9 is proof positive that such is the case. Notice the five things that are stated of these who had turned back:

    1. They had been at one time enlightened as to the claims of Jesus the Messiah.

    2. They had tasted the sweetness of the heavenly gift, but this does not in itself imply that they had eaten of the Living Bread.

    3. They were made partakers of Holy Spirit. The definite article is purposely omitted in the original. It was not that the Holy Spirit as a divine Person had ever indwelt them, but they had participated in the blessing that the Spirit had given.

    4. They had tasted the good Word of God, having listened to the good news of the gospel and to a certain extent appreciated the message that it brought.

    5. They had been eye-witnesses of the works of power of the coming age, as were all who beheld the mighty miracles wrought by our Lord and His apostles.

Now as we consider each one of these items separately it will, I think, become clearly manifest that all might be true of persons who had never experienced the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God.

Everyone who listens to the message of the new dispensation is thereby enlightened, for “the darkness is passing and true Light now shineth,” and that Light illuminates all who come under its gracious influence. But, alas, men may refuse the Light and, by turning away from it, go back into darkness. How many there are who have been deeply stirred as they heard of the Gift of God’s Son from Heaven and yet have never, like the Samaritan woman, judged themselves in the presence of the Lord and truly eaten this Sacred Food. To be a “partaker of Holy Spirit” is not at all the same thing as to be born of the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, or filled with the Holy Spirit. It is simply to be made aware of the mighty power of the Spirit working upon the hearts and minds of men bringing conviction, and wooing the heart toward Christ. One might tremble under this supernatural power and yet turn away from the message of the Spirit which if truly believed would bring life and peace. Many, too, who have listened eagerly to the Gospel, the good Word of God, and have recognized to a certain extent the preciousness of the message, have failed to eat the Word. Jesus did not say, “He that tasteth of Me shall live by Me,” but, “He that eateth Me shall live by Me.” It is a definite act of faith which becomes a habit of life. Then it is important to notice that the powers of the coming age (not the world to come, merely) are the works that will characterize the return of our Lord and the millennial kingdom; in other words, miracles which were given as a sign to the Jews in order to authenticate the ministry of our Lord and His apostles. We read in John of many who believed on Him when they saw the signs that He did, yet who went back and walked no more with Him. And so it seems clear that these apostates were persons who had an outward acquaintance with Christianity but never knew what it was to receive the Lord Jesus as their own personal Saviour. Definitely authenticated by works of power as He was, they still turned away from Him, and in so doing crucified for themselves the Son of God afresh, making a show of Him. This would be true of all who turned back from Christianity to Judaism.

In the two verses that follow, the apostle uses a parable to make clear what is in his mind. He depicts two pieces of ground; both have been cultivated in the same way; both are warmed by the same sun; both drink in their share of the same rain; but one produces useful herbs for those for whose sakes it has been tilled, thus partaking of blessing from God. The other brings forth only the fruit of the curse, thorns and briars; it is worthless, and in danger of being completely give up when its good-for-nothing fruit is burned. What is the difference between these two pieces of ground? In the one case, you have good soil into which has fallen good seed. In the other, there is barren soil and the good seed has not fructified. The lesson is plain. Here are two Jews, let us say, who have been brought up side by side. Both have been interested in the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Both have entertained the Messianic hope. Both have listened to the preaching of devoted servants of Christ. Both have become deeply interested in the Gospel. Both have been astounded at the mighty signs following the proclamation of the new message. Both make a profession of Christianity. Both are baptized and take their places in the Christian company. One of them bears the fruit of the Spirit in his life and becomes a devoted follower of the Saviour. The other manifests no evidence of new life at all, and eventually repudiates Christianity and goes back to Judaism. He is not actually cursed as yet, for in the mercy of God he may eventually realize his fearful sin, but it is most unlikely. He has made his choice, and is therefore nigh unto cursing. Now what is the difference between these two men? The one has truly turned to God in repentance, and the incorruptible seed of the Gospel has fallen into the prepared soil of an honest upright heart. The other has become intellectually acquainted with and interested in Christianity, but the good seed has fallen upon an unrepentant heart and has borne no fruit.

That we have not been mistaken in applying the passage in this way is definitely settled by the statement of ver. 9. The apostle says, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” They needed the warning and the urge to go on, but he was assured that those to whom he was addressing himself were truly saved people. If he saw in them better things than he had already referred to in vers. 4 and 5, it is evident that one might have the experience of the privileges there enumerated and not have salvation.

The proof of their reality was seen in their faithful service and love to fellow-saints leading to self-denying ministry. This gracious spirit he desires them to show to the end in the full assurance of hope, not giving way to slothfulness, but imitating those in past ages who, through faith and patience, became inheritors of the promise. He instances the case of their father Abraham to whom God sware by Himself, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee,” but to whom the promise was fulfilled only after long waiting. The word and oath of God were all that Abraham had for many years, but he held on in faith because he knew that God could not be untrue to His promise. And so we too have strong encouragement to press on counting upon God—we who, like the man-slayer of old, have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us; that is, the hope of final and eternal salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This hope is to us the soul’s anchor, not cast into the hold of the ship, that is, dependent upon our own frames and experiences, nor resting upon the shifting sands of human systems of thought; but fastened to the propitiatory, the mercy-seat, inside the veil. This anchor has been carried in by Jesus our Forerunner. So that though we be here on earth tossed about upon the sea of time, “our anchor holds within the veil.” It has been pointed out by others that the word translated “forerunner” was a nautical term used to designate a small boat. The mouths of many of the Greek harbors were not passable at low tide by ships of heavy draught on account of the sand bars, and so it was customary to place the anchor in the forerunner and, rowing over the bar, to cast it in the harbor, thus securing the ship until the tide should rise. The figure is readily applied to the soul’s relation to our ascended Lord, who now ministers in the Holiest on our behalf, a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec. He has entered into the very presence of God as our Representative, and His presence there is the pledge that we shall soon follow.

Section C. Chap. 7
The Melchisedec Priesthood Superior to that of Aaron

We have seen how in chap. 5:5-10 the apostle began to speak of the Melchisedec Priesthood of Christ. But from chap. 5:11 to chap. 6:20 he turned aside into a lengthy parenthesis in order to prepare his readers for a Letter understanding of this important subject. In our present chapter he develops it fully. In the first three verses he dwells upon Melchisedec himself, and incidentally gives a wonderful key to the interpretation of the types found in the Old Testament and also a remarkable confirmation of the doctrine of verbal inspiration.

There is no reason to think of Melchisedec as in himself a mysterious personage, possibly supernatural, or even as some have supposed a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. If any ask, “Who is Melchisedec?” the only proper answer is “Melchisedec.” He was not Shem the son of Noah, nor Job of the land of Uz, nor Cheops the builder of the great pyramid, as some have endeavored to prove. He was, as is distinctly stated, Melchisedec, King of Salem. All that we know of him is given us in the book of Genesis, chap. 14:18-20. This historical account depicts him as a royal priest reigning in Salem, the city that was afterwards known as Jerusalem. Long before the Levitical economy had been established and a special family set apart for the priesthood he, like Job and Abraham, offered sacrifices as a priest of the Most High God. In the divine providence he met Abraham and his triumphant band as they returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and his allies. It is noticeable that the King of Sodom was on his way to meet Abraham when the latter was intercepted by Melchisedec, who came to bless him in the name of the Most High God, and whose spiritual authority Abraham recognized by giving him tithes of all the spoils. Strengthened by the bread and wine administered by Salem’s king-priest, Abraham was prepared to refuse the blandishments of the King of Sodom, representative of the world in all its impurity and debasement.

In Psalm 110 our Lord is prophetically saluted as a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. He is to come forth from the new Jerusalem after the Armageddon conflict as a royal Priest to bless His delivered people in that day of His power.

Now observe how remarkably the Spirit of God sets His seal upon the verbal inspiration of the Old Testament. Our attention is drawn to the fact that this royal hierarch is first by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace. If the order of the names had been reversed, God’s beautiful type would have been spoiled, but standing just as they do, the names Melchisedec and Salem are in perfect agreement with truth elsewhere revealed. Righteousness must come before peace. We are told in Isaiah 32:17, “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” And so in the great gospel Epistle to the Romans we first learn how the righteousness of God has been maintained in the cross before we are told of peace with God which is ours by faith. So exact is Scripture that the changing of the order of the original words would throw all into confusion.

Ver. 3 has perplexed many, but it simply declares that so far as Scripture is concerned, Melchisedec appears upon its sacred page “without father, without mother, without descent (or genealogy), having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.” That is, in the book of Genesis, in which we find so many genealogies, this man, in spite of his importance, has none. There is no record of his parentage, his birth, or his death. He simply appears for a moment, then vanishes from our sight, never even to be mentioned again in the Word of God until the prophecy of Psalm 110. Thus he is an apt type of our ever-living Saviour and High Priest. Again let us worship as we contemplate the perfection of Scripture; just as perfect in what it omits as in what it relates!

In vers. 4 to 10 we have the superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood over that of Levi brought out very clearly. Levi was not born until many years after the event mentioned in Genesis 14. Abraham, however, was the father of all the Hebrew race, and therefore all the twelve tribes, including of course Levi, from whom came the priestly family, were represented in him when he recognized the superiority of Melchisedec by paying tithes to him and received his high priestly blessing. Unquestionably, says the apostle, “the less is blessed of the better;” and so in this double way the surpassing greatness of this royal priest is emphasized. “Levi,” we are told, “who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him.” Just as the entire human race was on trial in Adam, so the Levitical priesthood was represented in the patriarch Abraham when he acknowledged the superiority of Melchisedec by his attitude toward him.

The ground is now clear to show how the Melchisedec Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ surpasses in every way the Aaronic. It is evident that if perfection had come under the Levitical priesthood, in connection with which the law was given, there would have been no occasion for God to set it aside and raise up another Priest after a different and better order. Our Lord’s Priesthood, of course, was after the character of Aaron; that is, His Person and work were typified by the high priest and his service in connection with the tabernacle. But He does not belong to that order. He is, as was Melchisedec, King and Priest by divine fiat, not by human succession. This involves a complete setting aside of the old covenant, for “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Israel stood or fell with the priesthood. If God accepted the high priest on the great day of atonement, for instance, it involved the acceptance of the nation. If the high priest was rejected then the people were set aside. No high priest was ever to rend his garments (Lev. 10:6). When Caiaphas in his excitement and indignation rent his clothes, the priesthood passed away from the house of Aaron. And with it went the entire legal economy which was superseded by the marvelous dispensation of the grace of God.

According to Levitical law, our Lord had no title to the priesthood at all. As to the flesh, He sprang from the tribe of Judah, not from that of Levi; but this does not in any way militate against His Priesthood since it is of an altogether different order. He is consecrated, not in accordance with a legal enactment, but in all the might of resurrection “after the power of an endless life.” As Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec, He has brought in a new and better regime than that of the law. And so the commandment going before has been set aside. It was weak and unprofitable in the sense that it could not accomplish that for which it was proposed; namely, to give man a righteous standing before God, inasmuch as the flesh or the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So it was useless as a ground for blessing. It made nothing perfect; therefore it had to give way to the introduction of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God. This better hope is founded upon the principle of grace of which Melchisedec is the exemplification. And so by divine oath Jesus has become the surety of a better covenant.

In vers. 23 to 28 the contrast is between the dying priests of the old order and the ever living High Priest at God’s right hand. There was a constant succession of priests in olden days, for death was continually taking its toll of them. But our Lord’s Priesthood is unchangeable because He continues “unto the ages,” the strongest expression in the Greek language for eternity.

Thus as the ever-living One, He is able to deliver completely those who draw near to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. It should be noted that salvation to the uttermost here does not simply mean salvation from every kind of sin, but is even greater than that—salvation forevermore. He whom God saves is saved eternally, for He who died for him lives to keep him and to complete the work He began. And thus our souls are stirred to worship and thanksgiving as we realize how suited our Great High Priest is to the need of those who were once unholy, harmful and denied, sinful and degraded; for He gives us a perfect representation before the throne of God. He is everything that we were not and should have been. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners and higher than the heavens, and He is all this for us. Nor is it necessary that He, like the high priests of old, should offer daily sacrifices. They offered for their own sins, for they were themselves unclean, and then they offered in behalf of the people. But these sacrifices never settled the sin question. He, by His one offering up of Himself upon the cross, has completed the work that saves, and settled the sin question for all eternity. The law constituted men high priests who were themselves infirm and unreliable, but the divine oath has proclaimed Jesus to be a Priest forever, He who is as to the mystery of His Person, the Son of the Eternal Father.

What could the Spirit of God Himself say to make clearer the superiority of the priesthood of the new dispensation over that of the old? And with the priesthood, of course, is linked the entire sacrificial system. No Jew ever found settled peace or a purged conscience through recourse to the altar and the priest of the tabernacle or the temple. Undoubtedly wherever there was real faith, God met His people in grace, and by the Spirit gave them an inward sense of acceptance and joy in Himself, but this was not based upon the Levitical system. It was all in view of the eventual coming into the world of the Seed of the woman, who was to bruise the serpent’s head and to be Himself wounded for His people’s transgressions and bruised for their iniquities. The pious Israelite obeyed the commandment of the law and acted in accordance with the Mosaic ritual because God had so ordained for the time then present. Faith would lead him to do exactly as the Lord had said, but the ground of his peace rested not on the typical system but on that which it illustrated, the finished work of Christ. It was hard even for converted Hebrews to fully realize this, hence the care with which the Holy Spirit through the apostle takes up each detail in His effort to deliver them from Judaism and bring them out into the full light and liberty of Christianity.

In closing our study of this chapter, I would point out the distinction between the expression used here, “He offered up Himself,” and that found in chap. 9:14, where we read, “Christ who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” He “offered Himself” at His baptism in the Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, thus manifesting the Father’s good pleasure and pointing Him out as the perfect sacrifice, who alone was able to fulfil all righteousness on behalf of guilty sinners. But it was at the cross that He actually “offered up Himself” when He voluntarily became the great sin offering. It is important to remember that the death of Jesus was not merely man’s answer to the grace of God as seen in Christ. None could have put Him to death had He not of His own volition yielded up His life. He Himself declared, “No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:18). In the fullest possible sense He laid down that life voluntarily when He allowed wicked men to nail Him to that cross. There He took the sinner’s place and bore the sinner’s judgment. We speak of this as the finished work of Christ. But when we think of His High Priesthood we are on other ground altogether. This is His unfinished work, the work that will never be completed as long as any of His redeemed are in the place of testing and in need of succor.

Subdivision 2. Chap. 8
The Mediator of the New Covenant

Section A. Chap. 8:1-6
The Ascended Priest

We now have a summing up of the instruction we have already received concerning the Priesthood of our Blessed Lord. We see in Him a High Priest who through His own inherent right has taken a place which no Levitical priest could ever take. Instead of merely being permitted to enter once a year into the Holy of Holies, and that only for a few moments, not daring to sit down in the presence of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the ascended Man, has entered into the heavenly sanctuary and is there seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. There He ministers in the Holiest in that glorious tabernacle of which the earthly tent was but a type.

How important it is for us to realize that we are represented before God by a Man in the glory, for though we no longer know Christ after the flesh, yet He has gone up to Heaven as the representative Man to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

The earthly high priest of old was appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. By gifts we understand those offerings which were the expression of the grateful, adoring hearts of the people of Israel. The sacrifices, on the other hand, had to do directly with making expiation for sin. Our Lord did this latter when He offered Himself up on the cross. But now that He is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, it is of course necessary that He have something to offer. He presents before God our prayers and praises. Our heartfelt worship ascends to the Father by Him.

“Our great High Priest is sitting
At God’s right hand above;
For us His hands uplifted
In sympathy and love.

“To all our prayers and praises,
Christ adds His sweet perfume,
And love the censer raises,
These odors to consume.”

We may often be discouraged as we realize something of the imperfections even of our highest and best efforts to glorify God. Like Cowper, we may exclaim:

“Sin twines itself about my thoughts,
And slides into my prayers.”

But it is blessed to know that nothing reaches God that is not perfect. Our Great High Priest takes out of our prayers and praises everything that is unholy or of the flesh, everything that is contrary to the nature of the God we adore. Then to what is left, He adds his own infinite perfections and thus presents all to the Father on our behalf.

His Priesthood is altogether heavenly in character, for, “If He were on earth He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” This is not to say that He never acted in a priestly capacity while in this scene. He certainly did. As a Priest, He prayed for His disciples. In the seventeenth of John we have a wonderful sample of His High Priestly intercession. As Priest too, He offered Himself upon the cross as the supreme sacrifice for sin, as in the case of Aaron offering the bullock and the goat on the great day of atonement. But the point is, His entire Priesthood was heavenly in character. It was not inherited after the Aaronic order. Looked at from that standpoint, He would not be a Priest at all, as He did not belong to the tribe of Levi or the household of Aaron. He is the Second Man, the Lord from Heaven, and as such He is our Great High Priest, fulfilling the types and shadows of heavenly things, as set forth, for instance, in the book of Leviticus. In fact everything in connection with the tabernacle and its service was typical of Christ, picturing His glorious Person and His wondrous work. This was why God was so particular in regard to all its details. “Moses was admonished of God,” we are told, “when he was about to make the tabernacle: See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” There was no room for human ingenuity or for Moses’ own thoughts. All must be as ordered of God, for He alone knew the Son and the work He was to accomplish.

And now that the typical dispensation has been replaced by the present economy of grace, Christ has entered upon His better ministry, owing to the fact that He is the Mediator of a better covenant which was established upon better promises. The covenant of old depended upon man’s ability to carry out its requirements. God in effect said, “If you will do thus and so, I will do certain things.” Thus the promise of blessing rested upon man’s ability to claim that blessing on the ground of his obedience to the law. No man ever could obtain the promises on that basis. And so our Lord Jesus took upon Himself the curse of a broken law, was made a curse for us, became the great sin offering, and now has become the Mediator of a better covenant, in which all the promise is on God’s part and man receives every blessing as pure grace.

Section B. Chap. 8:7-13
The Better Covenant Supersedes the Old

Had that first covenant been perfect, it would never have been set to one side and a new covenant brought in. But because of its imperfection on account of the weakness and frailty of the flesh, God had declared long before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world that a new covenant was to be consummated with Israel and Judah. The apostle quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34: “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when 1 will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” This new covenant is clearly a reaffirmation of the unconditional covenant made with Abraham, which the law, coming in centuries later, could not annul. During all the present years of wandering Israel and Judah are under the curse of that broken law. But in the regeneration, when they shall be gathered back to their own land and restored to the favor of the Lord, this covenant of grace will be made with them.

It is most important to realize that nowhere are we told of a covenant made with the Church. In Romans 9:4 we learn that “the covenants” pertained to Israel. They were the chosen people with whom the Sinaitic covenant was made. According to the terms of that covenant they have forfeited all claim upon God’s favor. But He cannot deny Himself. He can never go back upon the covenant made with Abraham, by the terms of which He promised blessing unconditionally to Abraham’s seed. These promises He reiterates in the new covenant. The blood of that covenant has been shed upon the cross. Our Lord said, as He gave the communion cup to His disciples, “This is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you.” On the basis of that precious blood all who now believe in Him who shed it, enter into the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, even though Gentiles after the flesh, and therefore by nature, “strangers to the covenants of promise.” But in the fulness of times, when the day of Israel’s blessing shall arrive, the new covenant will be confirmed to them and they will be born of God—“a nation shall be born in a day”—and He will own them as His covenant people. His laws will then be instilled in their minds and written upon their hearts, and they will render to Him glad, happy service, not in order to make themselves worthy of covenant blessing, but because of the gladness of their souls when they know Him as their God and realize that they are indeed His ransomed people. The day of their blindness will have gone forever. The veil will be taken away from their hearts. No longer in need of human instruction, they shall all know the Lord from the least to the greatest in that wondrous day when He will be merciful to their unrighteousness and will remember their sins and iniquities no more.

While this does not reach the full height of Christian blessing, yet it will be wonderful grace indeed shown to the people who failed so terribly when they crucified the Lord of glory. The new covenant says nothing of entrance into the Holiest, as we now know it; nothing of being raised up together and seated together in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies; nothing of union with Him as members of His Body by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is blessing for the earth and on the earth in the coming day. But the fact that all these heavenly privileges are secured for the Church now by the shedding of the same blood of the covenant that is to procure future blessing for Israel, leads the apostle in the chapters that follow to stress our present title to enter into the Holiest, while Israel and Judah are still dispersed among the Gentiles, waiting for the day when the new covenant will be confirmed to them.

The very expression “a new covenant,” in itself makes the former testament null and void. It served its purpose up to the cross. Now that “which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” It is pathetic how little many Christians enter into this and understand how the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed us from all obligation to that temporary dispensation. It is to be feared that many who sometimes sing of such liberty fail really to understand its import.

“Free from the law! Oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”

Not yet do the earthly people understand this, and many who in a vague way have trusted in Christ and are undoubtedly regenerated, are still far from enjoying the liberty that is ours in Christ. Our present relationship to God is one of pure grace during this parenthetical period, in which God, having set aside Israel after the flesh, is taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. After this work is completed, He will build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down and will make a new covenant with those in Israel and Judah who will turn to the Lord in that day.

The important thing to see is that the new covenant, as such, does not go beyond blessing on the earth. It has to do with the earthly side of the kingdom of God, to enter into which new birth is a prerequisite, as our Lord told Nicodemus. This is what is meant by the writing of the divine law upon the hearts in the day that Israel and Judah will turn to the One who was once rejected.

Subdivision 3. Chaps. 9, 10
The Perfection of Christ’s Work

Section A. Chap. 9:1-10
The Earthly Sanctuary a Shadow of the Heavenly

As we enter now into the very heart of this precious portion of God’s Word, the apostle at the outset directs our attention to the typical character of the sanctuary and its service under the former dispensation. It will be noted throughout that he has the tabernacle in view rather than the temple. This is not, as some have supposed, because the construction of the temple was any less divinely ordered than that of the tabernacle. David plainly declared to Solomon, in giving him the plan of the more permanent sanctuary, “All this the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern” (1 Chron. 28:19). But the temple types evidently prefigure millennial glory and blessing and will be fully entered into and understood in that day of Jehovah’s power. The tabernacle, on the other hand, which was a temporary dwelling-place, picturing truth for a pilgrim people, has its application to the present times when the Holy Spirit, typified by the cloudy pillar of old, is leading the new dispensation company through the wilderness of this world, on to the rest that remains for the people of God.

As the first covenant was but for a time, so with the first tabernacle. It had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary. By “worldly” we are not to understand “unspiritual,” but rather that which is in contrast with the heavenly.

The tabernacle itself was, as we well know, divided into two parts, the first called the Holy Place, and the second, the Holiest of all, separated by the sacred veil. And as the apostle points out the various pieces of furniture connected with each compartment, we have another most striking illustration of the absolute verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; and this, in regard to a point which unbelievers have eagerly seized upon, claiming that it showed the very opposite, namely, apparent inaccuracy on the part of the sacred writer.

When he speaks of the first compartment, he says, “Wherein was the candlestick and the table, and the showbread.” He makes no mention of the golden altar of incense. Had he forgotten that this altar stood immediately before the veil? Or was there some divine reason for omitting mention of it in this connection?

All becomes very clear when we carefully note the next three verses: “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly” (vers. 3-5). Now observe carefully the change from the expression “wherein” to the altogether different term “which had.” And then notice that the golden censer is really the golden incense altar. The original is “thumiasterion,” which is the ordinary word for an incense altar. It is not at all the same as the word used in Revelation 8:3, 5 for a censer. This is “libanotos.” Any Ordinary reader of English can see how utterly different the two words are. There can be no question, then, but that “censer” here means the incense altar. But why did the writer not say it was in the Holy Place? Why does he plainly connect it with the Holiest? The answer is perfectly simple. It belonged to the Holiest because it typified Christ’s Person and intercessory work in the Holiest of all. But during all the Old Testament dispensation it must stand outside the veil where it could be approached by the priests, and yet so near the veil that the moment this curtain was rent in twain from the top to the bottom the fragrant smoke of the incense entered the Holiest. The apostle does not say it was in the Holiest, but he does declare it belonged to the Holiest “which had the golden incense altar.” So then the apparent imperfection is really a most beautiful evidence of the perfection of Holy Writ.

As long as the old dispensation lasted the priests had no access into the Holiest. They went only into the first tabernacle and accomplished the liturgical service. Once a year the high priest alone was permitted to enter the sacred inner chamber where the Shekinah hovered over the mercy-seat. Nor could he approach without atoning blood, which he offered first of all for himself as being but a sinful man, and also for the failures of the people.

By this arrangement, the Holy Spirit was declaring the solemn fact that the way into the immediate presence of God had not yet been made known, nor could be, so long as that first tabernacle had any standing before Him. The expression “was yet standing” is misleading. It would suggest that the way into the Holiest was not made known until the destruction of the temple about A.D. 70, and thus many have understood it. But it clearly means that the way into the Holiest was not opened up so long as God recognized the first tabernacle. The moment Christ Jesus died upon the cross the entire typical system ceased to have any standing before God. It was but a figure for a time then present, and the gifts and sacrifices offered in connection with it were simply picturing the offering up of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. In themselves, they were of no real value. They could not settle the sin question, and therefore could not perfect the consciences of those who brought them. The many ordinances in connection with meats and drinks and different baptisms, whether of persons or things, in fact all the fleshly observances which were connected with the first covenant, were only intended to serve a temporary purpose and to be in force until the time of reformation; that is, until Christ by His death and resurrection fulfilled them all and brought in the present new and glorious dispensation of the grace of God.

Section B. Chap. 9:11-23
The Superiority of the Sacrifice of Christ to all those Offered under the Old Dispensation

The apostle now proceeds to show how marvelously the one offering of our Lord Jesus Christ transcends all the types and shadows of old. He is both High Priest and Victim. As High Priest of good things to come, whose ministry is linked with a greater and more perfect tabernacle, that is, with the eternal dwelling-place of God, He has by the presentation of His blood entered in once for all into the Holiest on the basis of an accomplished redemption. His work abides eternally before God. No failure on the part of His redeemed can touch the value of His finished work. Of old, every time an Israelite sinned he needed a new sacrifice; but Christ’s one perfect offering up of himself has settled the sin question for ever, and therefore no wandering of heart nor failure in life on the part of those who have availed themselves by faith of His atoning work can alter for one moment their standing before the throne of God.

“That which can shake the cross
Can shake the peace it gave;
Which tells me Christ has never died,
Nor ever left the grave.”

Because of the infinite value of His precious blood, He has fully met all the claims of divine justice and thus secured eternal redemption. The moment His blood was shed upon the cross its efficacy was recognized in Heaven, thus answering to the sprinkling of the blood upon the mercy-seat. But it is not only seen as sprinkled upon the throne of God but also upon the believer, who is thus purged from all uncleanness.

Ver. 13 brings vividly before us the ordinance of the red heifer as given in Numbers 19. The heifer was burned to ashes, the ashes mixed with water, and this water of separation was sprinkled upon an unclean Israelite in order to make him fit for participation in the service of the earthly sanctuary. Ashes in this connection became eloquent indeed. They cried aloud, as did the expiring Saviour, “It is finished!” For ashes tell of fire burned out never to burn again. And so the failing believer has daily recourse to the washing of water by the Word, bringing afresh to his soul the truth of that finished work wherein every sin was settled for when Jesus died upon the tree. Therefore the apostle says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” He, the Sinless One, offered Himself to take the sinner’s place, and this in the power of the Eternal Spirit; and through the shedding of His blood our consciences are purged from works of death and we are set free to serve the living God. The Israelite of old who was defiled by coming in contact with the dead, had recourse to the water of separation. But all our best efforts were defiled by the fact that we ourselves in our unsaved state were dead in trespasses and in sins. Now, with all the past settled for, we are free to serve the living God in faith and in the power of a new life.

Christ is therefore the Mediator of the new covenant, which is founded upon His own death, whereby He settled for the transgressions of all who turned to God in faith during the times of the first covenant, that they, with us, might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression, “The redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant.” The sins of Old Testament saints were not actually put away until Christ accomplished redemption on the cross. Then these came into all the blessing of the new covenant which He sealed with His own blood.

There has been much controversy as to whether the change from covenant to testament, in the sense of a will, is intended in the verses that follow. But the two are so intimately connected that there would seem to be no reason for difficulty in understanding the truth presented. The old covenant was God’s will for His people prior to the coming of Christ and was sealed by the blood of calves and goats, which Moses sprinkled upon the book and all the people saying, “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” The new covenant is the will of our blessed Lord whereby He decrees that all who put their trust in Him should receive part in that eternal inheritance which He gladly shares with all believers. By His death this testament came into force. Apart from His death, there could be no such blessing for guilty sinners. A testament is in effect after men are dead. His death upon the cross puts this new covenant, or testament, or will, into operation, and inasmuch as it is a covenant of pure grace, all who believe enter into the good of it even before the day when it is to be openly confirmed with Israel and Judah, as we saw in the previous chapter. The blood of the covenant having already been shed, there is nothing to hinder the outflow of blessing. The sprinkling of the blood under the old dispensation confirmed that covenant, and was a warning to the people that death would result for its violation; while at the same time it typified the shedding of the blood of the new covenant Victim. Therefore we are told that Moses sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry, and “almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” This last statement is absolute. It is not restricted to the old covenant, as the verses that immediately follow make plain. It was necessary in the plan of God that the patterns and figures of things in the heavens should be purified with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the realities with better things than those of old. The heavenly things need purification because sin began in the heavens. It was there that Satan fell, and thus the heavens became unclean. Christ’s sacrifice is the basis for the purification of the polluted heavens and guarantees the bringing in of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Thus eventually, all in Heaven and all on earth will be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross.

This, of course, is not Universalism. It does not imply the salvation of all who have lived on earth, and certainly not of fallen angels who defiled the heavens. But it does speak of a time coming when sin and sinners will be banished from the earth and the heavens, and God be all in all.

Section C. Chaps. 9:24-10:22
The Way into the Holiest through the Blood of Jesus. His entrance the Pledge of Ours

The ground has now been laid which enables the Apostle to open up for us the special truth of the new dispensation, and to show how fully Christ has superseded all the types of old. In vers. 24 to 28 of this ninth chapter we have what some one has very aptly designated, “the three appearings of our Lord Jesus Christ:” He hath appeared, He doth appear, He shall appear. The order, however, is somewhat different, for the Holy Spirit dwells first on His present appearance as our Intercessor above, then turns our minds back to the time when He appeared to settle the sin question, and in the closing verses carries us forward to the glad hour when He shall appear the second time for our complete and glorious redemption.

In ver. 24, then, we look by faith into the true tabernacle which is above, the Holy Places not made with hands, and there we see our blessed risen Lord as He appears in the presence of God on our behalf. He is there to give us a perfect representation before the throne of God and we are accepted in Him. He is also there to make intercession for us in view of human frailty and tendency to err. And as the apostle John shows us, He is there as our Advocate with the Father, to undertake for us when actual failure has come in and broken communion. How full and complete is His present service as He officiates for us in the Holy Places! We often speak, and rightly so, of the finished work of Christ. This refers of course to His vicarious atonement which took place upon the cross. But it is just as scriptural to speak of His unfinished work, if we have in mind this special ministry of intercession which He has been carrying on in the Holiest ever since He was received up in glory, and which will never be finished so long as one needy saint is in the place of testing here on earth. His Cross work can never be repeated. No repetition is required, for He settled the sin question perfectly when He took our place in judgment. And in this we have the great distinction between the legal sacrifices and His one offering of Himself, when in the consummation of the ages He appeared to put away sin by His mighty sacrifice. The offerings of old had to be repeated again and again because they did not possess value sufficient to settle the sin question. But His precious blood poured forth for our redemption was of such infinite value that it is sacrilegious even to think of adding to it in any way. Having officiated at the altar, answering to the type of the great Day of Atonement, He has now gone into the sanctuary in the value of His own blood, and by and by He will come out to bless His people as did the priest of old.

“And though a while He be
Hid from the eyes of men,
His people look to see
Their Great High Priest again.”

Just as truly as men were under sentence of death with judgment beyond it, so Christ took that sentence upon Himself and was once offered to bear the sins of many. And just as certainly shall He appear unto them that look for Him the second time, altogether apart from the sin question, unto the complete and final salvation of all His own. Meantime the Holy Spirit has come forth to bear witness to the efficacy of His propitiatory work, while He Himself continues His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.

It ought to be clear that the latter part of ver. 28 is not intended to teach that only those who have advanced in knowledge along prophetical lines, and therefore live in daily expectation of the second coming of the Saviour, shall be caught up to meet Him at His return. This is not at all what was in the mind of the writer, and is certainly not the teaching of the Holy Spirit elsewhere in Scripture. But just as all Israel could be said to look for the coming forth of the high priest who had sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood of atonement, so all believers look for the coming again of our Lord Jesus. There may not be much intelligence as to the mode of His coming, nor in regard to the order of events, but the renewed heart cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

In the first eighteen verses of chapter 10 the contrast between the sacrifices under the law and His one offering is brought out more clearly than ever. It is important to follow the argument carefully and notice the close reasoning of the apostle as he contrasts the one with the other. The Levitical economy was but a shadow of the coming good things. It was not an exact delineation of these things. It was therefore impossible that the sacrifices offered upon Jewish altars yearly to perpetuity could perfect those who presented them so far as their consciences were concerned. For if the bringing of a lamb or a bullock could have settled the sin question, what necessity would there have been ever to repeat such a sacrifice? The worshippers, if actually once purged, would have been freed from all conscience of sins. Note carefully, he does not say consciousness of sins but conscience of sins. The distinction is most important. Today I may be conscious of sin in thought, word, and deed, but confessing my sins, I look up into the face of my Father with confidence, knowing that for these very sins the blood of Christ has answered, and thus my conscience is freed from condemnation. This could never be under the former order. Every sin called for a new offering, and then on the great Day of Atonement there was an annual sacrifice for all Israel. Notice verse 3: “In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.” Other translations have been suggested, all of which help to throw light on the meaning. The word translated “remembrance” might be rendered “recognition,” “calling to mind,” or “acknowledgment.” But why such an acknowledgment of sins if the sacrifice could not actually purge them away? The figure of a promissory note might help here. Let us suppose one is in debt for a certain sum of money. He gives a note to run for a year. At the end of the year he finds himself unable to pay. He renews the note. The note has no real value in itself. Nor did the sacrifices have any moral or spiritual value in the sight of God. But in that note there is an acknowledgment of the debt from year to year. Now let us suppose some one who is well able to pay, endorses the note, what then? When it becomes due, it is referred to him for settlement and he discharges the obligation.

The application is simple and clear. It was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins; but every time a believing Israelite brought his sacrifice to the altar, he was, so to speak, giving his note to God. He acknowledged his indebtedness, his sin, and accepted responsibility for the same. This was all he could do, but the pre-incarnate Christ endorsed every one of the notes and in the fulness of time came prepared to settle in full for all. “Wherefore when He cometh info the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God” (vers. 5-7). Here indeed is the divine Endorser who undertakes in grace to meet every claim that the throne of God has against penitent sinners. In this passage, which is quoted from Psalm 40:6-8, it is interesting to observe that all four of the offerings of Leviticus 1 to 7 are in view. The word “sacrifice” refers to the peace offering. The term “offering” is really the minchah, that is, the “meal” offering. The other two terms are too clearly designated to need any explanation. All of them were of no avail to put away sin, and consequently it could be said of them that God had no pleasure in them. But when His own blessed Son came into the world to fulfil all these types, and to pay in His own Person the redemption price, it is written: “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10).

By the fulfilment of the declaration of Psalm 40 He actually wound up the old dispensation and brought in the new. “He taketh away the first that He may establish the second.”

When He said, “I come to do Thy will,” He spoke of course of the will of God in His coming to make expiation for iniquity; and by His accomplishment of that will, we who believe in Him are now eternally set apart to God on the basis, not of our promises or feelings or of our personal righteousness, but of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. How slowly truths like these seem to seep into our souls and become part of our very beings. But one may safely say there is no lasting peace until this aspect of Christ’s work has been laid hold of in faith.

Continuing, the writer reminds his readers that in the sanctuary of old the high priests were constantly ministering and carrying on a work which was never completed, because of the fact that those offerings could not take away sins. The expression “every priest standeth” is in itself significant. We do not read of a chair or a settee in the tabernacle or temple, for the priest’s work was never done. But how different it is with our great High Priest above! He, after having offered His one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, where He now waits until His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. Whether one connects the term “forever” with the expression “one sacrifice for sins” or with the sitting down, makes little difference. That sacrifice has eternal efficacy. On the other hand, as Priest-Victim, His work done, He sat down never to offer sacrifice again. His one offering is perfect and complete, and all who are linked with Him by faith appear before God in all the value of that finished work, perfected forever, because sanctified in Him.

Of this the Holy Spirit is a witness to us. He has come forth from the Father and the Son to bear testimony to the perfection of that finished work. And it is He who now opens up the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, giving us to see in them what saints of old never realized was there. Witness the quotation from Jeremiah 31:33, 34. What was promised to Israel and Judah through the New Covenant is now true of all who turn to Christ. By new birth God puts His laws in their hearts and writes them in their minds, and declares without any qualification, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” This is complete justification from all things. No charge can now be brought against the one for whom Christ has settled everything. Therefore the blessed conclusion, “Where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (ver. 18).

This then entitles the “brethren” of Christ, the new priestly house, to enter with boldness as purged worshippers into the Holiest, the immediate presence of God, in all the infinite value of the blood of Jesus through that new and living way which He Himself opened for us when, by His death upon the cross, the veil was rent in twain, and God no longer was hidden, nor man in Christ shut out. So intimately are the redeemed and the Redeemer linked together, so truly are the High Priest and priestly house one before God, that we are urged to enter in spirit where He has gone, and to draw near to God with true hearts in the full assurance of that faith that is based upon the knowledge of an accomplished redemption; our hearts having been sprinkled by the blood of Christ from an evil conscience, and like the once-defiled Israelite, “our bodies having been washed with the water of purification.” It is to be regretted that so few Christians seem to apprehend all this today. It is safe to say that for thousands who have hope in Christ, the veil might just as well never have been rent. They do not have any conception of liberty for access into the Holiest, but think of themselves as a people on probation still, who, if only faithful to their profession will eventually be fitted for admission into the presence of God. How much is thus lost through failure to understand the true Christian position which has been beautifully expressed in the words of an old hymn:

“Now we see in Christ’s acceptance,
But the measure of our own;
He who lay beneath our sentence
Seated high upon the throne.”

God sees every believer in Him, and the feeblest saint has title to immediate access into the Holiest through the atoning blood. The exhortation and warning that follow were never intended by the Holy Spirit to becloud this blessed truth in the slightest degree, but rather to accentuate the importance of holding fast what is here revealed.

Section D. Chap. 10:23-39
Warning Against Apostasy; Evidences of Reality

After the gracious invitation to enter into the Holiest comes the counter exhortation of vers. 23 to 25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” In verse 23 confession would be a better word than profession, as in A. V. We may profess what is not true. We confess that which is. The believer has declared his faith in a crucified, risen, and glorified Christ. He is exhorted to hold fast this great confession without turning either to the right or to the left, assured of the faithfulness of Him who gave the promises concerning His Son, and has in grace fulfilled them up to the present moment. One great promise remains to be confirmed at our Lord’s return, and we may be assured that He who has never failed in one respect in regard to the past and present work of Christ, will be equally faithful in regard to that which is to come.

Three times in this part of the chapter, we have the persuasive words, “let us.” First, “Let us draw near,” verse 22; second, “Let us hold fast;” verse 23; and now, “Let us consider one another,” verse 24. The believer is not alone in his confession of Christ, nor is he to act in isolation. He is linked with others both by nature and grace, and he is called upon to seek to stir up his brethren unto love and to good works, assembling with fellow-saints for worship, prayer, and testimony, not coldly withdrawing himself as the manner of some, but remembering his responsibility toward his brethren is all the greater if some seem to have failed grievously and others are in danger of it. Nor is he to make special light on prophetic truth a reason for assuming a sectarian attitude toward his brethren. He needs them and they need him all the more as the day of Christ’s glorious return to this earth approaches.

In verses 26 to 31 we have another side of things altogether. The warning, as in chap. 6, is against apostasy. We read: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The warning here is based upon the perfection of the one sacrifice of Christ, which has been opened up in such a marvelous way in the preceding part of the chapter; as that of chapter 6 was based upon the manifest power of the Holy Spirit working in the Christian company, which was designed of God to exalt the Person of Christ. To apostatize either from the truth as to His Person or His finished work, means eternal ruin. It is not mere failure in the life that is here contemplated. The wilful sin in this passage is the definite rejection of His atoning sacrifice. Nor is this simply the foolish and wicked determination of a moment, of which many have been guilty, but have afterwards been brought to sincere repentance. The apostle really says, “If we are sinning wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no other sacrifice for sins.” The verb is the present participle. It is what has become habitual. If, after fully examining what the Old Testament Scriptures teach concerning Christ and His work and comparing it with the New Testament presentation, thus having obtained the knowledge of the truth, one deliberately and persistently rejects it, God has nothing more to say to him. By so doing, he spurns the only means of salvation for Jew or Gentile. An apostate Hebrew might have reasoned within himself that the sacrifices still going on at the temple were all that he needed, and therefore, even though he had professed to be a follower of Christ, he would turn back to them; but this would be a fearful mistake. Those sacrifices no longer availed. Christ’s atonement alone met the claims of God in respect to sin. And so the apostate had nothing to look forward to but the certainty of divine judgment and flaming wrath. Of old, the despiser of the first covenant died without mercy upon the testimony of two or three witnesses. But what was his guilt compared to that of the man who had become acquainted with the gospel message, had at one time been intellectually convinced of the truth, but for selfish reasons had finally turned away from it and gone back to Judaism? To do this was to tread under foot the Son of God and count the blood of the new covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing. Manifestly this could never be true of one born of God, for the Holy Spirit abiding within would preserve from so terrible a step. Yet what is the meaning of the expression, “The blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified?” The answer surely is that sanctification is here positional. Just as all Israel was set apart by the blood of the old covenant at Sinai, and yet any Israelite lacking faith could turn from all the privileges that were his by virtue of that blood, so to-day the entire professing Church is set apart to God on earth in the value of the blood of the new covenant. But this does not preclude the possibility of abjuring this covenant sign and refusing the blessedness which it has purchased. The Holy Spirit delights to magnify Christ and to exalt His work. To refuse His testimony is to do despite unto the Spirit of grace. This expression, “the Spirit of grace,” occurs only here in the New Testament, and is found only once in the Old Testament, and that in Zechariah 12:10.

There is a very interesting suggestion in verse 30 in corroboration of the position we have already taken as to the authorship of this Epistle. We read, “We know Him who hath said, Vengeance belongeth to Me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people.” These quotations are from Deut. 32:35, 36. The second one is an exact quotation from the Hebrew, but the first one is quoted neither from the Hebrew nor the LXX. It is the writer’s own rendering of the passage, and is exactly the same in the Greek as the quotation in Romans 12:19. We know who the author of Romans was. We may be certain that the same hand penned the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This word of warning closes for the moment with the solemn declaration, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” All who reject the testimony He has given concerning His Son must meet Him in judgment; and we read elsewhere, “In Thy sight shall no man living be justified” (Ps. 143:2). But “he who has died is justified from sin,” as a literal rendering of Romans 6:7 tells us.

Satan has used the passage we have been considering to trouble and perplex honest souls whose sensitive consciences accuse them of failure to walk with God as they should. Such have often been made to fear that they were guilty of the wilful sin here contemplated. But it is not the question of what is commonly called “backsliding” that is before us. Of this any real believer may often be guilty; but even when overwhelmed with failure, he clings more tenaciously than ever to the fact that Jesus is the only Saviour and His sacrifice the only means of deliverance from sin’s judgment. The apostate of this chapter has no such hope or consciousness. He has spurned utterly both the Christ and the cross. He holds the blood of Jesus in contempt, and hence for him there is nothing but doom ahead.

It is evident that from verse 32 to the end of the chapter, the writer is seeking to assure the hearts of all who have really trusted Christ that his words do not apply to them, while on the other hand he would warn them of the danger of turning their back in the slightest degree upon any truth that God had revealed. He bids them remember the former days, the days when upon first being awakened by the Holy Spirit and enlightened by the truth, they turned from the world for His dear sake and were content to suffer for His name, enduring a great fight of afflictions, sometimes suffering personally both by reproach and persecution, and at other times bearing the contempt of their former co-religionists because of fellowship with those who were suffering for Christ’s sake. They had in this way manifested their love for him showing him every consideration possible after his imprisonment, even taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing on the authority of the Word of God that they had in Heaven a better and enduring treasure. Having begun so well, and up to the present time continued in the part of devoted separation to Christ, he exhorts them so to continue to the end. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (vers. 35, 36). Reward is distinguished from salvation. The latter is altogether by grace, and is ours from the moment we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is at His coming that we shall receive our reward. He says, “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give unto every man according as his work shall be.” In view of this, how needful it is that we endure patiently, assured that when we have fulfilled the will of God concerning us, we shall receive in full the promised blessing at His return. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (ver. 37). This is a paraphrase of Habak. 2:3, which in the LXX reads, “For the vision is for a time, and it shall shoot forth at the end, and not in vain: though He should tarry, wait for Him; for He will surely come and will not delay.” It is Christ Himself who is before the eye of the prophet. He will fulfil every promise made to His suffering people when He returns in power and glory. Nor is His coming to be long delayed, though it may seem so sometimes to His waiting people. But we need to remember that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” so that not yet have two days gone by in God’s reckoning since Jesus went away. Who knows that ere this second day is past He may be back again.

In the meantime God has said, “The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” This also is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4. It is remarkable the way a brief text from an obscure Old Testament writer is used by the Spirit of God in emphasizing the great truth that is characteristic of the present age, “The just shall live by faith.” We are justified by faith; we are maintained in a righteous life by faith; and by faith we live to God. If any, after making a profession such as this, turn back, they prove that there was no real faith in the soul, and God declares, He hath “no pleasure in them.” But how comforting the words with which the chapter closes. What assurance they are designed to impart to every trusting one. “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” There is an intellectual believing that saves no one. One may accept Christianity as a system one day and give it up the next. But he who truly trusts in Christ is saved even now, and will never draw back unto eternal loss. Concerning all such our Lord has said, “Those that Thou gavest Me, I have kept, and none of them is lost.” And we are told that He who hath begun a good work in them will perform it unto the day of Christ. Therefore it should be plain that salvation is not in our keeping, but we ourselves are kept by the power of God. None can pluck us out of the hands of the Father and the Son. Eternal life would not be “eternal” if it were forfeitable and could ever be lost.