SYNOPSIS: The priesthood of Jesus is superior to that of Levi or Aaron because it rests on the endless resurrected life of Jesus, a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
The letter to Hebrews employs a series of comparisons, t0 demonstrate the superiority of the revelation of God given in His Son, Jesus Christ. The “Word spoken in a Son” is superior to past “word” that was “spoken to the father in the prophets,” we well as revelations given through the angels and even Moses at Mount Sinai.
The purpose of the comparisons is not to denigrate Moses, angels, or the Torah but, instead, to stress the vast superiority of the “word” spoken in the Son. The past revelations of God were valid but partial, temporary, and promissory.
For example, the word spoken in the Son is complete and “better than” the partial revelation given through the “prophets.” The Son, “having achieved purification of sins,” sat down at the right hand of God and was “appointed heir of all things.” The clear inference is that the past words “in the prophets” failed to obtain the “purification of sins” so vital to the people of God:
(Psalm 110:4) – “Yahweh hath sworn—and will not repent, Thou [shalt be] a priest unto times age-abiding, after the manner of Melchizedek.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Hebrews 1:1-3) – “Whereas, in many parts and in many ways of old, God spake unto the fathers in the prophets, At the end of these days, He hath spoken unto us in his Son,—whom he hath appointed heir of all things, through whom also he hath made the ages; Who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his very being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The reference to the Son having “achieved purification of sins” introduces the subjects of his vastly superior priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant, all subjects presented in great detail in chapters 7-10 of the letter.
The author of Hebrews demonstrates the superior revelation given in Jesus by contrasting his everlasting priesthood, his “new” covenant, and his once-for-all sacrifice with the Levitical priesthood, the “first” covenant, and the repeated animal sacrifices that were required by the Torah which was given to Israel through Moses. And he, in turn, had received it from angels (Hebrews 2:1-5).
The fact that God promised a future priesthood, one “after the order of Melchizedek” proves that the Levitical priesthood could not achieve the purification of sins, nor was it intended to endure for all time. Under that priesthood, “the people received the law.” But the change in priesthood promised by God also meant, “a change of law.” That is, the divine promise of a new priest, “after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110:4).
Unlike the Levitical priesthood, which, due to human mortality, was dependent on lineal descent and multiple generations of priests, the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” is perpetual – it is based on an endless resurrection life. The “weakness” of human mortality inherent in the old system meant there was a “disannulling” of the previous commandment, which could “make nothing complete”:
(Hebrews 7:11-17) – “If, indeed, therefore, there had been a perfecting through means of the Levitical priesthood,—for the people, thereon, have had based a code of laws, what further need, according to the rank of Melchizedek, for a different priest to be raised up, and, not according to the rank of Aaron, to be designated? For, seeing there is to be a change of the priesthood, of necessity, of law, too, a change cometh. For, he as to whom these things are said, with a different tribe hath taken partnership, from which no one hath given attendance at the altar; For it is very evident that out of Judah hath sprung our Lord,—respecting which tribe, concerning priests, nothing did Moses speak, And, yet more abundantly evident it is—that, according to the likeness of Melchizedek, there is to be raised up a different priest. Who, not according to a law of commandment dealing with the flesh hath arisen, but according to the power of an indissoluble life; For it is witnessed—Thou art a priest age-abidingly, according to the rank of Melchizedek.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Unlike the Levitical priesthood, the priest after the order of Melchizedek was installed by the declared word and oath of God (“The Lord swore and will not regret, ‘You are a priest everlastingly’”). Therefore, Jesus holds the priesthood “un-transmissible” and unchangeable. Further, he has become “guarantor of a better covenant” and is able, therefore, to save to the uttermost all who approach God through him, because he “lives evermore to intercede on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:19-25).
Unlike the Levitical priests, Jesus “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” he, having become the minister of “the Real Tabernacle,” not a tent assembled and pitched by man. The Levitical system on the earth constituted “glimpses and shadows of the heavenly realities,” just as Moses was told to make the earthly Tabernacle “according to the pattern he had seen in the mount” (Hebrews 8:1-5).
Likewise, having “attained to a more distinguished ministry, he also is the mediator of a better covenant legislated upon better promises.” If the “first covenant” had been faultless there was no need for a second one. However, having found fault with it, the Lord announced the coming days when “I will conclude a new covenant”:
(Hebrews 8:6-13) – “But, now, hath he attained unto a more distinguished public ministry,—by as much as of a better covenant also he is mediator, which indeed, upon better promises hath been legislated. For, if that first had been faultless, not, in that case, for a second had there been sought a place. For, finding fault with them, he saith—Lo! days are coming, saith the Lord, when I will conclude for the house of Israel and the house of Judah, a covenant of a new sort: Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by their hand, to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt,—because they abode not in my covenant, and I disregarded them, saith the Lord. Because this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord:—giving my laws into their understanding, upon their hearts, also, will I inscribe them: and I will become their God, and they shall become my people; And, in nowise, shall they teach—every one his fellow-citizen, and every one his brother, saying,—Get to know the Lord! Because all shall know me, from the least unto the greatest of them; Because propitious will I be as to their unrighteousnesses, and of their sins, in nowise, will I be mindful any more. In saying, Of a new sort, he hath made obsolete the first; but the thing that is becoming obsolete and aged, is near disappearing!” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The new covenant is stated, expressly, NOT to be “according to the covenant” made at Sinai. It is not a “renewed” or slightly modified covenant, but one of a new kind (verses 7-9). This was necessary because the old legislation instituted at Sinai was unable to achieve the purification of sins.
The new covenant instituted by the Son empowers all citizens of the kingdom to know God, and it establishes them as His people, the righteous requirements of His laws Law having been written on their hearts (verses 10-12). Moreover, unlike the “first” covenant, the new one does achieve the purification of sins (“I will become merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins will I remember no more”).
By establishing the new covenant, the Son “has made the first obsolete,” which is already in the process of disappearing. This means the covenant established at Sinai ceased to be in effect because of the superior act and status of the Son, Jesus Christ.
Anyone who chooses to live under the old Mosaic legislation selects something that has been rendered obsolete. The system that could never achieve purification of sins has been replaced by the promised “new covenant” that does that and much more. Therefore, to turn back to the old system is regression, not progress or revelation. Anyone who removes himself from the jurisdiction of the priestly ministry of the Son places him or herself under the jurisdiction of the incomplete and, now, obsolete Levitical system.