PROPITIATION OR EXPIATION?

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:Whom God hath set forth to be A PROPITIATION through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).

The word propitiation used in Romans 3:25 (above) in the King James Version, comes from the Greek word “hilasterion” which can be translated as propitiation or expiation. 

Among the Greeks in ancient times, propitiation was the act of appeasing pagan gods because there was no natural disposition of good will in them. The pagans would make offerings to appease or satisfy their gods in an effort to earn their favor. Unfortunately, this concept is often employed by those who view the cross as the place of God’s wrath towards Jesus as our substitute.

Conversely, expiation has to do with atonement and reconciliation. Atonement and reconciliation more accurately describes the  Biblical view of God and the nature of the sacrifice of Jesus.

The following examples of other translations of Romans 3:25 give more insight into the biblical view of hilasterion:

• (TNLT) For God presented Jesus as THE SACRIFICE FOR SIN. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…

• (NIV) God presented Christ as a SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith…

• (CEV) God sent Christ to be OUR SACRIFICE. Christ offered his life’s blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God…

• (WYC) Whom God ORDAINED FORGIVER [Whom God purposed an helper], by faith in his blood…

• (YLT) whom God did set forth A MERCY SEAT, through the faith in his blood…

• (LEB) whom God made publicly available as THE MERCY SEAT through faith in his blood…

Under the Old Testament expiation, which is atonement, was made annually by the atoning blood, which was sprinkled upon the mercy seat.

The mercy seat was the lid or the covering of the ark of the Covenant. It was sprinkled once a year with the atonement blood from sacrificial animals. The atonement blood was taken from the altar of sacrifice, where the sacrifices had been offered as a sweet fragrance to God and carried into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest. The blood was then sprinkled on the mercy seat to make atonement for the sins of the people,(Leviticus 16:5, 7, 15, 33) and for the Priesthood (Leviticus 16:3,6,11-14, 33).

On the Day of Atonement, atonement was also made for the golden altar (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:18, 19, 20, 33) and for the holy of holies (Leviticus 16:16, 17, 20, 33) and for the entire tabernacle (Leviticus 16: 16, 20, 33).

Atonement was made for all these to sanctify them and to consecrate them to God and to make reconciliation so God’s presence could dwell in the midst of His people in the Tabernacle.

When Jesus died on the cross He gave himself as a sacrifice and offering for our sins. According to Ephesians 4:32-5:2 the sacrifice of Jesus was a sweet smelling savor to God and for Christ’s sake we have been forgiven.

Under the Old Testament, the Mercy Seat sprinkled with the atonement blood by the high Priest on the Day of Atonement, was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ entering into the presence of God for us. Through Jesus, the way into the holiest of all is open. We have the invitation to enter boldly into the presence of God through His blood.

Unlike the priests under the law who could only enter the holy of holies once a year, our Lord Jesus has entered into the presence of God and is now enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty one high where he ever lives to make intercession of us.

This biblical view of atonement is the concept that is being alluded to in Romans 3:25.

Under the Old Testament the Hebrew word for mercy seat is ‘kapporeth’ which means to cover. Kapporeth is translated as ‘hilasterion‘ by the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Therefore, according to the Septuagint, ‘hilasterion’ (translated propitiation in Romans 3:23 KJV) should be understood as mercy seat.

Interestingly, the KJV of the Bible does translate hilasterion as mercy seat in Hebrews 9:5: a reference to actual mercy seat in the tabernacle.

The Mercy seat was the place of atonement and specifically speaking, the Mercy Seat is where the shed blood was sprinkled in the presence of God to make atonement or reconciliation.

It is also important to point out that in 1 John 4:9-10, the apostle John uses the word propitiation as a description of the love of God towards humanity, and not as a description of the wrath of God towards humanity.

The word propitiation in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 is a different Greek word from the one used in Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5, however it is from the same family of words and carries the same fundamental idea.

The use of the concept of propitiation (in its various forms) is employed at least eight times throughout the New Testament. Romans 3:25 is one of the eight. The other seven employ the use of the concept of atonement, reconciliation, love, and/or mercy.

Never once in any of these seven other places is it used to convey the idea of wrath. Why then, would we think that Paul would use it differently in Romans 3:25? Would Paul employ the pagan Hellenistic view, rather than the scriptural view given in the scriptures?

Reconciliation through sacrificial love and atonement is consistent with the surrounding context of Romans 3:25. Appeasement through wrath is not. The mercy seat was the place of reconciliation. It was the place of redemption expressed in mercy, not the place of retribution and anger.

Appeasement is neither taught by the new testament nor is it foreshadowed under the old. The worship of the one true God is nothing like that of pagan religions. The two are diametrically opposed to one another. Appeasement belongs to pagan worship, but expiation which is atonement or reconciliation through grace, belongs to the truth of the one true God.

The fundamental problem with appeasement theology is that it miss characterizes the character and nature of God. Appeasement is an act directed toward God in an effort to change him; to turn Him from wrath or anger. Expiation or atonement is an act by God directed towards man to show mercy and grace. The Bible never says that God was reconciled to man; instead it is always man who is reconciled to God because of God’s mercy and grace.

CONTRASTING PROPITIATION AND BIBLICAL ATONEMENT

• Propitiation is reconciliation based on appeasement
• Atonement is reconciliation based on the good will of the grace of God

• Propitiation indicates that there has been a change in God’s attitude towards sinful men.
• Atonement indicates that there has been a change in the repentant sinner towards God.

• Propitiation indicates that God has been reconciled to man
• Atonement indicates that man has been reconciled to God

• Propitiation indicated that the cross was reactive
• Atonement indicates that the cross was provisional

• Propitiation indicates that the cross was punitive
• Atonement indicates that the cross was redemptive

• Propitiation indicates that God cannot forgive of His own free will without retribution.
• Atonement indicates that God forgives freely because of His grace

• Propitiation indicates that the cross is the place of substitution and exchange.
• Atonement indicates that the cross is the place of sacrifice and offering

• Propitiation indicates that Jesus was rejected by God for our sake
• Atonement indicates that Jesus was accepted by God for our sake.

• Propitiation indicates that an offended God sent his Son to die on the cross
• Atonement indicated that a loving God sent his Son to die on the cross

• Propitiation indicates the Greek ‘pagan view’ of worship
• Atonement indicates the Biblical view of Atonement

CONCLUSION

The mercy seat bears its name because of the display of God’s mercy that was demonstrated by the annual sprinkling of the sacrificial blood. It was the only seat within the tabernacle and represented the throne of God in the midst of His people. It was to be approached only on the Day of Atonement by the High Priest but not without the atoning blood. The Day of Atonement was the one day of the year that Israel’s’ faith was actively focused on the most holy place. It was the one day of the year that what had happened at the altar of sacrifice had to be trusted by faith as being complete and secured within the holy of holies. The Israelite was to trust the high Priest to fulfill his intercessory ministry in the presence of God and trust that atonement had been made upon the mercy seat.

So it is with us. We look to Jesus who died on the cross and rose again, and we trust in him for he lives forever to make intercession for us in the presence of God.

ONCE AND FOR ALL

The author of Hebrews places emphasis on the finished work of Christ and refers to it as once and for all.

Contextually, the putting away of sins and the once for all reference(s) is in regards to superiority of the New Covenant in contrast to the Old, and the permanency of the finished work of Christ in contrast to the imperfect atonement under the Law which was merely as shadow of things to come .

Notice the following from Hebrews 7:

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens; Who needth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. ~ Hebrews 7:25-28 

Notice also the following from Hebrews 10:

By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God. ~ Hebrews 10:10-12

The blood of animals could not purify man’s conscience in the sight of God and those offerings were not sufficient to provide lasting atonement for all sin, therefore atonement had to be made annually for the nation and daily for individuals. Furthermore, those sacrifices could not take away sin and cleanse the conscience from guilt. Jesus’ sacrifice, however, provided atonement once and for all. His sacrifice is perfect and avails forever.

Christ’s sacrifice being “once for all” does not mean that God can’t see our sins. It does not mean that we do not need to repent when we know we have sinned. It simply means that there is no longer any need for offerings for sins. Jesus’ sacrifice will cleanse us and keep on cleaning us when we sin if we continue in faith towards Christ.

Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek (He is both priest and King seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High). There will never, ever, be a need for another sacrifice or another priest. In fact, the Book of Hebrews tells us that if we go on sinning (living in sin and rejecting Jesus) after we have received the knowledge of the truth there is no more offering for sin.

Jesus’ ministry as our priest is unlike those who were ordained under the Law:

He does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins. ~ Hebrews 7:27

DOES GOD CONVICT CHRISTIANS OF SIN?

Does the Holy Spirit convict the believer of sin?

Some claim that He doesn’t and even go as far as to say that God no longer sees any of our sins. Is this claim supported by the scriptures?

Allow me to ask the following question:

Was the Apostle Paul inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to write to the Corinthian Church?

Certainly he was.

If God doesn’t see the believer’s sins and the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict believers of sin, why did God, through His Holy Spirit, inspire Paul to address the sin of fornication within the church at Corinth? Why did Paul, inspired by God, rebuke the Corinthians for not grieving because this severe sin was in their midst?

In 1 Corinthians Paul says: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

Then in 2 Corinthians Paul says the following:

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

So I ask again, was Paul inspired by God to deal with the issue of sin among the Corinthian believers? If so then God knew about their sin and admonished them to deal with it, therefore it is scriptural to say that the Holy Spirit will convict a believer who is in sin.

For more teaching along these lines you may click on the link below:

https://michaelbattle65.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/what-does-saving-grace-do/

 

BEHOLD YOUR KING!

Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt’ (Matthew 12:5 TNLT).

The entrance by Jesus into Jerusalem on the week of his death is often referred to as his triumphant entry, and rightfully so. According to the gospel narrative, Jesus was in complete control for the Father had entrusted all authority into his hands (John 13:1-4).

The Pharisees had declared; There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (John 12:19, TNLT)

Jesus, however, did not come as a political or militant conqueror. He came as the meek and gentle Savior. Christ entered Jerusalem as the King of Israel according to the scriptures, and as he was approaching the city, Jesus began to weep.

And when he was come near, HE BEHELD THE CITY, AND WEPT OVER IT, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now THEY ARE HID FROM THINE EYES. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; BECAUSE THOU KNEWEST NOT THE TIME OF THY VISITATION. (Luke 19:41-44)

Jesus looked upon Jerusalem and wept over it because she had missed the time of her visitation and her desolation was near. Jesus then came to the temple, and his presence caused quite a stir among the people and incited the politically and religiously corrupt temple authorities.

WHEN JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM, THE WHOLE CITY WAS STIRRED AND ASKED, “WHO IS THIS?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”JESUS ENTERED THE TEMPLE COURTS and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “IT IS WRITTEN,” He said to them, “‘MY HOUSE WILL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’BUT YOU ARE MAKING IT A DEN OF ROBBERS.’” The blind and the lame came to him AT THE TEMPLE, AND HE HEALED THEM. But when THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” THEY WERE INDIGNANT. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “HAVE YOU NEVER READ, “‘from the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” (Matthew 21:10-16).

These children were praising God and declaring that Jesus is the Son of David. The title, Son of David, is a reference belonging to the Messiah. These children in the temple were praising God because the Messiah was there in their presence! This infuriated the temple authorities.

After this, Jesus left the temple and the city and went to Bethany where he stayed the night. The next morning he returned to the city. As he approached the city, the Bible tells us he was hungry, and saw a fig tree some distance away.

When he came to the fig tree, he found no fruit on it, only leaves. Jesus then said to the fig tree; “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.” Immediately the fig tree began to withered away.

The cursing of the fig tree, would later serve as a parable to the disciples of the destruction which was soon to come on Jerusalem and the temple because of the wickedness therein. The temple authorities were not seeking God and had turned that which was supposed to have been a house of prayer into a den of thieves.

Jesus cursed the fig tree which had leaves only and no fruit on it, and this coincides with what was going on within the temple, which had a beautiful appearance but no fruit!

Next we read the following:

Jesus ENTERED THE TEMPLE COURTS, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then WHY DIDN’T YOU BELIEVE HIM?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—WE ARE AFRAID OF THE PEOPLE, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

The chief priests and the elders had no desire to find the truth but only wanted to be in control. Yet, God was taking that control from them and they didn’t even see it coming, because they were blind leaders. On the heels of the question “Who gave you authority?” Jesus then gives them the following parable:

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “truly I tell you, THE TAX COLLECTORS AND PROSTITUTES ARE ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF GOD AHEAD OF YOU. FOR JOHN CAME TO YOU TO SHOW YOU THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

Notice that Jesus addresses their question, “who gave you authority?”, by holding them accountable to the preaching of John the Baptist, who was sent to reveal the Messiah to Israel (see John 1:31). Next, Jesus spoke another parable to them.

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a wine press in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the HARVEST TIME approached, he sent his servants to the tenants TO COLLECT HIS FRUIT.”

Remember, the fig tree Jesus cursed, had NO FRUIT on it. Jesus continues:

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘THIS IS THE HEIR. Come, LET’S KILL HIM AND TAKE HIS INHERITANCE.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when THE OWNER OF THE VINEYARD COMES, what will he do to THOSE TENANTS? He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to OTHER TENANTS, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”Jesus said to them, “HAVE YOU NEVER READ IN THE SCRIPTURES: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I tell you that THE KINGDOM OF GOD WILL BE TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU and given to a people who will produce ITS FRUIT. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” When THE CHIEF PRIEST AND THE PHARISEES heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. THEY LOOKED FOR A WAY TO ARREST HIM, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

Christ is the Son to whom the inheritance belongs, and they to whom he was speaking were the evil tenants. Jesus had entered into Jerusalem just days before his death and resurrection. He came as the King of Israel and entered the temple according to the scriptures. The temple authorities opposed him and became indignant at the praise of children praising him as the Messiah. They challenged his authority because they did not repent and believe when his forerunner, John the Baptist, testified of him. They had rejected the counsel of God by refusing to be baptized by John the Baptist (Luke 7:30) and now they were plotting to kill him.

They were the evil tenants in the temple which they had corrupted. They did not recognize the God whom they claimed to represent even when he entered the temple and stood in their midst. Instead, they challenged his authority.

Jesus then left the temple with His disciples. As they were leaving the temple, his disciples began to point out the splendor and the magnificent stones of the temple. Jesus responded by telling them “not one stone will be left upon another.” Afterwards, he told them of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE

I don’t think many, especially those who have been influenced by the teaching of premillennial dispensationism, have made the connection between Jesus’ words concerning the temple in Matthew 24:1-2 and his words in verse 15.

In verses 1&2 we read the following: And Jesus went out, and departed from THE TEMPLE: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of THE TEMPLE. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.

In verse 15 we read the following:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, STAND IN THE HOLY PLACE, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)…

Verse 15 has often been interpreted as a reference to the anti-Christ in a third Jewish temple in our yet future. However, there is nothing in the flow of thought to indicate that Jesus is referring to any other temple other than the one he referenced in verses 1-2. If the disciples were attentive to his words, the then standing temple is the one they would have understood to be referred to in verse 15. In verses 1&2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and beginning in verse 15, he describes how the temple will be destroyed.

Jesus says, “when you see it,” referring to those during that generation who would see the destruction of the temple. He did not say, “When THEY see it” referring to another temple at another time.

In describing the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Jesus says, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree.”  Jesus was referring to the fig tree he had recently cursed which had no fruit on it, echoing that which was fresh in the minds of his disciples. The fruitless fig tree which Jesus had cursed was a parable of the city of Jerusalem and the then standing temple.

The old system was being removed, and the new was coming, and God was the one doing it. By cursing the fig tree, Jesus was also instructing his disciples to look to God and not to any man made temple. Jesus said, “have faith in God!” They did not need the mediation of the temple service, or those who served in the temple, for the Kingdom of God had come in and through Christ.

The night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, he stood trial before Caiaphas the high priest and witnesses were sought after so that they could put Jesus to death, yet they found none. Finally they found two false witnesses who said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” 

However, Jesus never said such a thing. Instead, Jesus had said, “destroy this temple (a reference to His body) and I will raise it in three days.” (see John 2)

At this false accusation, the high priest arose, and said to Jesus, “Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? ”But Jesus held his peace, and the high priest then said to Him, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” 

In response to this authoritative demand, Jesus says, “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Everyone in the room understood that this was Messianic language, and that Jesus had just declared that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel.

In response to Jesus’ declaration that he indeed is the Messiah, the high priest then tore his priestly garment – an offence which was punishable by death under the Law. In the presence of Jesus, the King of Israel, Caiaphas had nullified his priesthood

At this Point there was only one true high Priest standing in the room, and they did not know him. They did not know that Jesus was both the lamb of God and the high priest who would offer himself without spot to God.

Jesus was then accused of blasphemy by the one who had just nullified the old priesthood in the presence of the new!

Early the next morning, the Jewish leaders delivered Jesus over into the hands of Pilate, the Roman governor. As Jesus stood before him, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus responded to Pilate saying, “it is just as you have said.”

Then the chief priests accused Jesus of many things in the presence of Pilate, but Jesus said nothing in response. Pilate then turned to Jesus as said, “Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.”

Jesus remained silent and this astounded Pilate.

Shortly thereafter, Pilate asked the mob who had gathered there that day, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Pilate knew that the chief priests had delivered Jesus over to him because they were envious of Jesus.

Pilate then brings Jesus before the Jews gathered there that morning, and as they beckon for the customary release of the prisoner at Passover (this time it was Barabbas), Pilate asked the people, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?”

The Bible says that he asked the people this because he knew the priests were envious of Jesus. The chief priests then persuaded the people to to ask that Barabbas be released. Pilate then asked the people, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?Then they cried out, “CRUCIFY HIM!”

Jesus had entered Jerusalem as the King of Israel, he had cleansed the temple and pronounced judgment on their leaders who were the fruitless tenants. He had stood trial before the high priest who nullified the old priesthood in his presence, and as he stood trial before a Gentile governor, he was rejected by the Jews who were turned against him by their leaders who vowed their allegiance to Caesar, the worldly King.

Consider the significance of the moment.

And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he (Pilate) saith unto THE JEWS, Behold your King! But they cried out, away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I CRUCIFY YOUR KING? The chief priests answered, WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR. 

Pilate, caught in the middle, had already asked Jesus the question, “are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33). Jesus answered Pilate, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” After another brief question and statement by Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is NOT OF THIS WORLD: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered TO THE JEWS: but now is MY KINGDOM NOT FROM HENCE” (v.36).

AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEK

INTRODUCTION

By all evidence, the book of Hebrews was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. We know this because the writer of Hebrews makes reference to the temple service, the priests, and the sacrifices in the present tense. In the present tense, he makes a comparison regarding the superiority of Jesus’ ministry in the heavens (in the greater and more perfect tabernacle) to that which was on earth (which only served as a shadow and an example) to point men to Christ.

He tells us that if Jesus were on earth he would not be a priest since there are already priests who offer gifts and sacrifices according to the Law. Even though that priesthood which had been ordained by the law was still functioning in the temple it had been made completely ineffective by Christ’s work on earth at the cross, and by his ministry in the heavens as our high priest.

Jesus’ ministry as high priest is not through the Law and when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the priesthood which was by the Law and already made ineffective, became completely inoperative.

THE LAW OF A CARNAL COMMANDMENT

According to the Law of Moses, only the descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi were commanded and permitted to serve as priests. Jesus, our great high priest, was not a descendant of Levi. He was from the tribe of Judah and of the house of David instead, and there is no place in all the Torah (the Law of Moses) where Moses spoke anything about a priest coming from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:12-14).

The author of Hebrews refers to the Law’s instructions for appointing priests as, the law of a carnal commandment, and tells us that this command has been annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (Hebrews 7:18). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the changing of the priesthood has necessitated a change of the Law as well (Hebrews 7:12) .

Without its priesthood, the Law of Moses is not functional because the priesthood was given to serve as the mediation between God and the people who were under the Law. Therefore, without its priesthood, the Law has no one to serve as its mediator to make intercession for the sins of the people.

The command given by the Law with regards to its priests required a continuous succession of priests who succeeded one another because those priests were all subject to death. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “the Law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope did, through which we draw near to God.”  (Hebrews 7:19-23)

The priesthood which was ordained by the Law could not make anything perfect and therefore it had no power to bring men near to God. Those who served as priests under that administration were men with infirmities, meaning, they were all under the power of sin and subject to death like everyone else.

They were appointed by a carnal commandment (Hebrews 7:16), which employed carnal ordinances (Hebrews 9:10), and as long as that priesthood was in force, the true Holiest of all was not yet open (Hebrews 9:8).

JESUS OUR APPOINTED PRIEST

Unlike those priests who were appointed by the Law, Jesus will continue forever as our high priest because he has been appointed as priest forever with an irrevocable oath from God who raised him from the dead. The author of Hebrews tells us Jesus has an unchangeable priesthood which will go on forever without ceasing.

The scriptures reveal that God has repented (changed his mind) at times in his dealings with man (see Exodus 32:11-14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11; Psalms 106:45). God’s character does not change, but he has reversed what he was going do and has expressed regret at times in various Biblical accounts.

However he has promised that he will never change his mind concerning Jesus as our great high priest of the New Covenant. Jesus is God’s guarantee to us that he will never repent, i.e., change his mind. It is by this oath that Jesus was made the guarantee of a better testament. Jesus is our eternal hope!

CHRIST IS A PRIEST FOR EVER AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

In expounding on the ministry of Jesus as our high priest, the writer of Hebrews makes several appeals to the Messianic prophecy that Jesus is made a priest after the order of Melchizedek and not after Aaron.

Christ was called of God as was Aaron (Hebrews 10:4-6, 10). Yet his priesthood is not after the order or rank of Aaron’s (Hebrews 7:11).

Christ’s priesthood is after the order of Melchisedek which does not necessarily mean that Melchisedek foreshadowed Christ, but simply that the priesthood of Christ in comparison to Aaron’s is of a different rank.

There are many ways in which Aaron and his descendants under the Levitical priesthood foreshadowed the ministry of Christ and this is expounded especially in the 9th chapter of Hebrews. Yet it is Melchisedek’s priesthood which is similar to Christ’s in it’s order (it’s structure).

If we refer to Melchisedek as a type of Christ we must remember that it is the structure, rank, or order of Melchisedek’s priesthood to which we are referring and not his work as a priest.

Melchisedek’s priesthood is similar to Christ’s in that he was both a king and a priest and scripture records nothing regarding his predecessors or successors. So while the priesthood of Aaron typified the work of Christ, the priesthood of Melchisedek was structured like Christ’s. This is the contrast that is being made by the author of Hebrews with regards to the priesthood of the enthroned Christ and Aaron under the Law.

Beyond the book of Hebrews, there are only four verses throughout the entirely of the scriptures which reference Melchizedek. They are Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4.

The writer of Hebrews mentions the name of Melchizedek nine times throughout his epistle. Only two of those references, where the name of Melchizedek is mentioned, concern the historical figure who met Abram (Abraham) after the slaughter of the Kings. The other seven are references expounding on Jesus’ eternal priesthood in contrast to the priests under the law. The emphasis of Hebrews, with regards to the mentioning of Melchizedek, is to reveal the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to those priests who served under the law.

The last mention of Melchisedek by the author of Hebrews is found in chapter seven. At the beginning of chapter eight he sums up everything he has said thus far concerning Jesus our Great High Priest by telling us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High.

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. (Hebrews 8:1)

Melchizedek was a king and a priest, and not a priest only. This is something that was not permitted under the Law of Moses. Jesus our great high priest is both king and priest. Unlike those priests under the Law whose work was never finished, Jesus’ has finished his work and is seated as the king of glory at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high.

THREE WAYS MELCHISEDEK IS MENTIONED IN SCRIPTURE

Ruth Lasalle Specter points out the thee ways in which Melchisedek is mentioned in scripture – (1) in history (2) in prophecy (3) in doctrine.

1. IN HISTORY (Genesis 14:17-23)

(a). He is the first mentioned priest in scripture.

(b). He appears more than 400 years before the law was given.

(c). He appears 1000 years before the Messianic prophecy of Christ.

(d). There are other priests mentioned in scripture before the Levitical priesthood was established: (1) The priest of Midian is mentioned in Exodus 2:16. (2) Joseph married the daughter of the priest of On (Genesis 41:50). (3) There were Egyptian priests under the rule of Pharaoh (Genesis 47:22, 26).

2. IN PROPHECY

The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

3. IN DOCTRINE IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

(a). His name is mentioned 9 times in Hebrews.

(b). His name means “King of Righteousness.”

(c). He was as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

WHO WAS MELCHISEDEK?

Melchisedek was a real person who was both a King and a priest. He was the King of Salem which is ancient Jerusalem in the land of Canaan (Psalm 76:2). Salem means Peace, and comes from the word Shalom.

When Melchisedek met Abram the Hebrew, as he is referred to in Genesis 14:13, the nation of Israel did not yet exist and Abraham did not yet have a child.

Melchizedek’s subjects were evidently Gentiles because Israel did not yet exist and there is no evidence suggesting that the inhabitants of Salem, where Melchisedek ruled, were in any way in covenant with the God of Abraham.

(a). Abraham had not yet been justified by faith.
(b). Abraham was childless.
(c). There was no covenant of circumcision as of yet.

Melchisedek met Abraham at the same time that the king of Sodom went out to meet Abraham. Unlike the other divine encounters which Abraham had, there is nothing in the context of Genesis 14 that would lead us to believe that Melchisedek was a pre-incarnation of Jesus.

At other times when God or angels visited Abraham, Abraham built altars and worshipped God. This did not occur when Melchisedek met him.

Abram (Abraham) left his homeland of Haran and went into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). Later, Abram was living in the land of Canaan and Lot was in Sodom when both the king of Sodom and Melchisedek came to meet Abram after he and his servants defeated the kings who had plundered Sodom.

WHY DID ABRAHAM PAY TITHES TO MELCHISEDEK?

Abraham’s tithe was an ancient Arab custom. You may find it surprising to know that tithing did not originate with the nation of Israel. Paying a tenth from the spoil of war (to the reigning or ruling king) was a customary practice in Abraham’s day. Abraham’s tithe was a special one time tithe-tax from the spoils of war.

Under the Arab custom, the spoil-tithe tax was ten percent of the spoil. However under the Mosaic Law, the spoil-tithe tax which came from the spoils of war was only one percent and was given to the Levites, and one tenth of that one percent, was given to the priests (information courtesy of Russell Earl Kelley. See also Numbers 31:27-30).

Abraham did not give Melchisedek a tenth of his own personal wealth. In fact there is no record that Abraham gave Melchisedek anything from his personal possessions. At other times when God appeared to Abraham, Abraham offered sacrifice to God from His substance (Genesis 12:7-8; 13:14-18).

MELCHISEDEK WAS NOT GOD OR CHRIST

God does not mediate as a priest for himself. Every priest is taken from among men and ordained for men. (Hebrews 5:1).

MELCHISEDEK was not Christ before His incarnation, there was only one incarnation of the Son of God. Before His incarnation, Christ was “yet to come.”

  • (b) The Law of Moses is said to have been added till the seed, who is Christ, was to come. (Galatians 3:24)
  • (a) Adam (as the first man) is said to be the figure of Him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)
  • (c) When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law… (Galatians 4:4).
  • The scriptures do not support multiple incarnations of the Son of God.

Christ, who is divine, is qualified to be our great high priest because he clothed himself with humanity.

  1. He was tempted as a man.
  2. He suffered as a man.
  3. He is acquainted with our infirmities as a man.
  4. He offered prayers as a man.
  5. He was perfected as a man.
  6. He made reconciliation for our sins as a man.

Jesus did not lay aside his deity when he came into this world. Jesus, being deity, was clothed with humanity and took the form or position of a servant though He was Lord of all. The king of glory came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He did not come to be served though he was worthy of this privilege.

As our great high priest, Jesus is touched with the feeling of our infirmities and he knows firsthand the pain that all of us face at different times in our lives. He knows firsthand the pain of being rejected because he suffered for us being rejected by his people. Yet, he trusted in God and committed himself to the One who judges righteously. According to the scripture he is our example in suffering wrongfully (1 Peter 2:19-25). After he had suffered unjustly at the hands of sinful men, he was vindicated by God when he raised him from the dead and gave him the highest place of honor. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a faithful high priest in the person of Jesus, and in Jesus, God has become personally acquainted with all of our sufferings.

WITHOUT ANCESTRY

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. (Hebrews 7:3)

It is the writer of Hebrews, not the Genesis account, who makes this startling statement. Genesis is a book heavy on genealogical records. Yet there is none given for the historical Melchisedek. He mysteriously appears on the scene and is gone after three short verses.

Genesis never says Melchisedek had no ancestry or descendants, but the absence of the mention of these is by divine design and the writer of Hebrews draws on this to elaborate on the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The absence of any genealogical record makes Melchisedek’s priesthood like unto Christ’s in structure. Christ was made a priest not through his genealogical ancestry, but by an oath from God instead.

The writer of Hebrews is not telling us that Melchisedek had no ancestry or descendants, but rather that he was a priest apart from these.

Consider the following points:

  • Ester 2:17 says, “She had neither father nor mother…”
  • “Without”, does not mean Melchisedek had no parents or descendants.The Greek word for “without” means “apart from”, or “separate from.” Melchisedek was a priest in scripture “apart from” his ancestry and descendants.
  • In this manner Melchisedek prefigured Christ’s priesthood with regards to rank or structure. Christ was made priest apart from his pedigree in the flesh.
  • It cannot be true that Melchisedek was a divine figure, i.e. Christ incarnate in the Old Testament, for then Christ would have been a priest before Aaron and there would have been no need for the Levitical priesthood to foreshadow the work of Christ, which was at that time, still to come.
  • Neither can it be correct to say that Melchisedek was Christ incarnate under the Old Testament because he was without ancestry or descendants for Christ has ancestry according to the flesh.

MADE LIKE THE SON OF GOD, ABIDETH A PRIEST FOREVER (HEBREWS 7:3)

Melchisedek was not the Son of God. The scripture says, “he was made like unto the Son of God”, similar in rank. It is important to notice that the author of Hebrews does not say the Son of God was made like unto Melchizedek, but rather, Melchizedek was made like unto the Son of God.

…made like unto… (similar to, or a resemblance of…)

It is significant that the author of Hebrews says “the Son of God” rather than “the Son of man” when speaking of Jesus’ Priesthood. Both titles (Son of God and Son of Man) are employed throughout scripture in reference to Jesus, but in reference to Jesus as high priest, the name, Son of God, is specifically referenced.

Jesus’ priesthood is predicated in his being the Son of God. Notice the following scriptures.

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. (Hebrews 4:14)

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (Hebrews 5:5)

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. (Hebrews 7:3)

For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:28)

AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

After the order of… i.e., “after the similitude of”, or “similar to”… (Hebrews 7:15).

Jesus is not a Melchizedek priest with a Melchizedek priesthood. He is no one’s successor and there will be no one succeeding him. He stands alone as the One God called to be our exalted and enthroned priest at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Melchizedek was a king and priest whom God caused to come on the scene in history and recorded within the pages of scripture as a revelation of the order of Christ’s priesthood.

Jesus is our King – Priest. His work is finished and he is exalted forever. The focus is Jesus, and not Melchizedek.

THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM

In the book of Romans the apostle Paul makes a distinction between the Israelites by telling us, “…they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.  ~ Romans 9:6b-8

Paul applies the promise God made to Abraham which says “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” to those who are the children of God by faith. These are the true children of Abraham in the eyes of God, and not those who were of natural descent only. Scripturally speaking, those who are children of Abraham (in truth) are the children of God.

Paul uses similar language in Galatians as in Romans when he says to his Gentile brethren, “if ye belong to Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ~ Galatians 3::29. He also says, “For we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”  ~ Galatians 4:28

Both of these are references to being children of God by faith and heirs of the promise which God made to Abraham. Abraham is the father of all who believe and that is why Paul makes the distinction that he does between the Israelites who sought righteousness through faith and those who sought it through the works of the Law.

In Romans 9-11, Paul tells us that only a remnant of the people of Israel truly found God’s way of righteousness and that the people of Israel, as a whole, did not obtain righteousness because they did not seek it by faith. Instead, they sought it by the works of the Law: through their national identity.

In Romans 4, Paul tells us that because of Abraham’s faith, he was declared righteous in the sight of God, apart from the works of the law. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In Galatians Paul says, “…the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” ~ Galatians 3:8

Abraham believed the Gospel in advance which was God’s promise to justify all who believe. Therefore all who are of faith (faith in Jesus) are the children of Abraham and heirs to the promise.