..To ancient SDA's ............ To "What's New?"
New Testament Scripture references are from "The New Testament in Modern English", by J. B. Phillips, 1960 edition, and Old Testament quotes are from "The New King James" version, unless otherwise specified. All emphasis is added.
It was a priest from "the order of Melchisedec" and not one from the Aaronic system whom Abraham met and recognised after his rescue of Lot and his companions. GENESIS 14:17-24. In fact, it was Melchisedec himself and in deference to his position, Abraham, the father of the faithful, paid him tithe and asked a blessing from him!
"Now this Melchisedec was, we know, king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham when the latter was returning from the defeat of the kings, and blessed him. Abraham gave him a tribute of the tenth part of all the spoils of battle.
"(Melchisedec means 'king of righteousness', and his other title is 'king of peace' (for Salem means peace). He had no father or mother and no family tree. He was not born nor did he die, but, being like the Son of God, is a perpetual priest).
"Now notice the greatness of this man. Even Abraham the patriarch pays him a tribute of the tenth part of the spoils.
"Further, we know that, according to the law, the descendants of Levi who accept the office of priest have the right to demand a 'tenth' from the people, that is, from their brothers, despite the fact that the latter are [also] descendants of Abraham. But here we have one who is quite independent of Levite ancestry taking a 'tenth' from Abraham, and giving a blessing to Abraham, the holder of God's promises! And no can deny that the receiver of a blessing is inferior to the one who gives it.
"Again, in the one case, it is MORTAL men who receive the 'tenths', and on the other it is one, who, we are assured, IS ALIVE [even now]!" HEBREWS 7:1-8.
The person whom Abraham met was not Christ, for if he had been there would not be any point to the argument that he accepted tithe because as the Son of God He could rightly have done so. He was "like" Christ, but was not Him. Nor was he the Holy Spirit in human form because of the same reason.
He was not Christ, but he was the voice of God in the world at that time, and this Abraham recognised. And yet this man is spoken of as still being alive in the time when the letter to the Jewish Christians was written, some 2,000 years after Abraham!
Consider indeed, "How great this MAN is!"
"We may go further. If it be possible to bring men to spiritual maturity through the Levitical priestly system (for that is the system under which the people were given the law), why does the NECESSITY arise for another priest to make his appearance after the order of Melchisedec, instead of following the normal priestly calling of Aaron? For if there is a transference of priestly powers, there will necessarily follow [from that] an ALTERATION of the law regarding priesthood".
A new way
This "alteration" became necessary, and possible, in the apostolic times because the children of God began to take their attention away from the earthly sanctuary to which they had so long looked, and began to recognise the real one in heaven, and the real High Priest. They acknowledged the truth of the following words sent to them by God.
"Now to sum up - we have an ideal High Priest such as has been described above. [i.e. Chapters 1-7]. He has taken His seat on the right hand of the heavenly Majesty. He is the Minister of the sanctuary and of the real tabernacle - that is, the one God has set up and not man.
"Every [earthly] high priest is appointed to offer gifts and make sacrifices. It follows, therefore, that in these holy places this Man has something that He is offering.
"Now, if He were still living on earth He would not be a priest at all, for there are already priests offering the gifts prescribed by the [ceremonial] Law. [But] these men are serving what is only a pattern or reproduction of things that exist in heaven. (Moses, you will remember, when he was going to construct the tabernacle, was cautioned by God in these words,
'See that thou make all things
According to the pattern that was
showed thee in the mount').
"But Christ has been given a far higher ministry for He mediates a higher agreement, which in turn rests upon higher promises. [But] if the first agreement had proved satisfactory there would have been no need for the second". HEBREWS 8:1-5.
Some of the Christians of those days had begun to realise that there were new covenant priests available to them also, and that Jesus Christ was the High Priest of the new covenant.
But only a few saw this!
However, behind this obvious change which should have been readily seen by all of them, God also desired them to see and understand the qualifications of a "Melchisedec" priest, so that they might also aspire to be one. And none of them saw them!
"How fundamental is this change becomes all the more apparent when we see this other Priest [i.e. Jesus] appearing according to the Melchisedec pattern, and deriving His priesthood NOT by virtue of a command imposed from the outside [as Aaron did in the old covenant], BUT FROM THE POWER OF AN INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE WITHIN. For the witness to Him, as we have seen, is, 'Thou art a Priest FOREVER, after the order of Melchisedec'. [PSALM 110:4]. "Quite plainly, then, there is a definite cancellation of the previous commandment [i.e of the old covenant and its services], because of its ineffectiveness and uselessness - the [ceremonial] law was incapable of bringing anyone to real maturity - followed by the introduction of a better hope [the NEW covenant], through which we [now] approach our God". HEBREWS 7:15-19.
So we see that one of the most important characteristics of a NEW covenant priest is that he must be capable of living forever, and yet he must also be human.
A real man
Christ Jesus, "because He lives for ever, possesses a priesthood that needs no successor", and He now bears human nature, therefore He is the High Priest of the Melchisedec priesthood. Verse 24. But the priest whom Abraham met was not Christ because they met many centuries before Jesus came to this earth as a Man.
However, Melchisedec was a real man living on the earth in Abraham's time, and indeed, a king, a special king, for as we have seen, his name means "king of righteousness", and his city was the city of peace, (Jeru)-salem. But it is also written that he had no father or mother or family tree! And God states of him that he was not born nor did he die, as other men do!
This should not surprise us for we have been told that it was God's intention that all of His people were to become priests, and ROYAL priests at that, for it is has been said,
"You are God's 'chosen generation', His 'royal priesthood', His 'holy nation', His 'peculiar people' - all the old titles of God's people now belong to you. It is for YOU now to demonstrate the goodness of Him who has called you out of darkness into His amazing light". 1 PETER 2:9-10.
And so all of God's people today are candidates for the Melchisedec priesthood.
The first one
But who was the first one who gave his name to this order?
He had to be a man who lived in the time of Abraham;
yet have no father, mother, or children;
and have everlasting life,
for he was not born nor did he die!
Who could he be?
The only person who can fit all of this description is Enoch, "the seventh from Adam". JUDE 14.
Enoch lived before Abraham's time. GENESIS 5:21-24.
When he was converted to Christianity, he left his earthly father and mother and family, to join the family of God where all are brothers and sisters. MATTHEW 19:29.
He was not the first Christian of course, but he was the first to so love his Saviour that he could not bear to be separated from Him for even a moment, and he so "rested" in Christ's power that he eventually ceased to sin at all, and was the first to be translated into heaven without seeing death. GENESIS 5:21-24.
"It was because of his faith that Enoch was promoted to the eternal world without experiencing death. He disappeared from this world because God promoted him, and before that happened his reputation was that 'he pleased God'. And without faith it is impossible to please Him. The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists, and secondly that it is worth a man's while to try and find God". HEBREWS 11:5-6.
He was not born as Melchisedec, but re-born to that name and character, with the gift of an already existing life - the life of the Son of God which has no beginning nor end.
He was the only Christian in the time of Abraham who could use his "new name" for he now knew it. Revelation 2:17.
It was by virtue of this "promotion" that he was able to be the first of the redeemed to come back to earth and try to help others find their way to God - the first to start a second ministry. But this did not make him a Melchisedec priest - that was so because he had an everlasting life within.
In like manner, those of us who accept the new covenant terms are eligible to become Melchisedec priests, either while we are still living, as Enoch and Elijah have done, or after our resurrection, as Moses has. The choice of time is yours.
The other two have also been back here on this earth as recorded in the gospel of Luke.
"About eight days after these sayings, Jesus took Peter, James and John and went off with them to the hill-side to pray. And then, while He was praying, the whole appearance of His face changed and His clothes became white and dazzling. And two men were talking with Jesus. They were Moses and Elijah - revealed in heavenly splendour - and their talk was about the way He must take and the end He must fulfil in Jerusalem. But Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep and it was as they struggled into wakefulness that they saw the glory of Jesus and the two men standing with Him".
Although God tried to get this truth through to His people they were "asleep", as they have been so often in the past, and the opportunity to understand God's great plan was lost again.
But note carefully, God has two classes of Melchisedec priests
because they have another very important characteristic.
Of the first group He says,
"They shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as GATE-KEEPERS of the house and ministers of the house ... and they shall NOT come near to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place". EZEKIEL 44:11-13.
But of the second He says,
"But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me ... they SHALL ENTER My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge". Verses 15-16.
All of the redeemed will then be priests in God's sight, but the first group cannot come near to Him, "to minister" or give enjoyment to Him, while the others can, for they are able to enter His room, the second apartment, the "second tabernacle" as it should be titled, for it is written, "And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all", in HEBREWS 9:3. Authorised Version.
This second group "follow the LAMB wherever He goes", here on earth first, and then also in heaven, for they, like Enoch, "were redeemed from among men [not the grave], being first-fruits to God and to the LAMB". REVELATION 14:4. Thus they enter into the area coveted by Lucifer before his fall from grace! They are the "sons of Zadok", the other "king of righteousness", for it was one by that name who carried the ark back into Jerusalem when king David left the city.
We need to look carefully into their qualifications.
Sons of Zadok
It was during the time of trouble in king David's reign that Zadok is mentioned. 2 SAMUEL 15. He was among the group of priests and Levites who brought the throne of God to David as he was fleeing from the city of God because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. From his palace David had looked out upon his capital -"Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth ... the city of the great King". PSALM 48:2. David had shuddered at the thought of exposing it to carnage and devastation. "Should he call to his help the subjects still loyal to his throne, and make a stand to hold his capital? Should he permit Jerusalem to be deluged with blood?", he wondered. But these decisions were not his to make! In his anxiety he had not remembered the next few words. "God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge"!
But he made his decision. Without fully realising the significance of what he was doing, he turned from his "Refuge" and took shelter in flight. He decided to leave Jerusalem, and then test the fidelity of his people, giving them an opportunity to rally to his support, but in this he was not wise nor obedient. In this great crisis it was his duty to God and to his people to maintain the authority with which heaven had invested him. The issue of the conflict he should have left to God.
"A messenger came to David, saying, 'The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom'. So David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, 'Arise, and let us flee, or else we shall not escape from Absalom. Make haste to depart lest he overtake us suddenly and bring disaster upon us, and strike the city with the edge of the sword'. And the king's servants said to the king, 'We are your servants, ready to do whatever my lord the king commands'. Then the king went out with all his household after him. But the king left ten women, concubines, to keep the house". 2 SAMUEL 15:13-16.
In humility and sorrow David passed out of the gate of Jerusalem - driven from his throne, from his palace, from the ark of God, by the rebellion of his cherished son. The people followed in a long, sad procession, like a funeral train. David's bodyguard of Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites accompanied him unnoticed until David, with characteristic unselfishness, expressed surprise that they should be ready to make this sacrifice with him. He said to their leader, "Return, and take your brethren back. Mercy and truth be with you". Verse 20. Ittai answered, 'As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or in life, even there also your servant will be'. These men had been converted from paganism to the worship of the LORD Jehovah, and they now thought to prove their fidelity to their God and their king by following in his footsteps.
So David said to Ittai, 'Go, and come over', but little realised just what this meant.
The ark of God
Soon the procession halted yet again, for a company clad in holy garments was seen approaching bearing the ark of the covenant. The followers of David looked upon this as a happy omen, and as a pledge of their ultimate deliverance and victory, and they hoped that the ark's absence from Jerusalem would bring terror to the adherents of Absalom.
"There was Zadok also, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of the covenant of God, and Abiathar [who was co-high priest with Zadok] went up until all the people had finished crossing over [the river] from the city. V24.
At the sight of the ark joy and hope for a brief moment thrilled the heart of David. But soon other thoughts came to him. As the appointed ruler of God's heritage he was under solemn responsibility. Not personal interests, but the glory of God and the good of His people, were to be uppermost in the mind of a king of Israel, as they should be in a priest's. God, who dwelt between the cherubim, had said of Jerusalem, 'This is My rest', PSALM 132:14, and without divine authority neither priest nor king had a right to remove the symbol of His presence. And David knew that his heart and life must be in harmony with the divine precepts, otherwise the ark would be the means of disaster rather than success. It was not for him to remove from the capital of the nation the throne of God containing the sacred statutes which embodied the will of their divine King, and which were the constitution of the realm and the foundation of its prosperity.
What he failed to realise was that he should not go either!
But he turned to Abiathar and Zadok who were sharing the office of high priest, and said, "Carry the ark of God back into the city". This command Zadok the priest received with great joy because he had known that the ark should not go with David, and had only come reluctantly with Abiathar.
Abiathar [= father of abundance] was one who escaped Saul's massacre at Nob. He joined David then. 1 Sam 22:20-23; 23:6-9; 30:7-8. But later rebelled against him by supporting Adonijah in the conflict over Solomon's accession. 1 Kings 1:7-8; 32-45: 2:26-27. He was banished by Solomon and was the last of the line of Eli, fulfilling the prophecy. 1 Sam 2:27-36.
Zadok [= righteous] became sole HP till his death. 1 Kings 2:35
"The king said also to Zadok the priest, 'Are you not a seer [i.e. a man appointed by God to instruct the people]? Return to the city in peace ... Therefore Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem. And they remained there". Verses 25-29.
This story is recorded in the Bible so that we may see the other main characteristic of a Zadok/Melchisedec priest.
It is that he will remain at his post of duty until his work is finished, and until he is told to leave by his King, as Jesus did in the wilderness of temptation. MATTHEW 4:1-11.
Keeping the charge
God says of the faithful ones, that they, "kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me", but what does He mean by this?
It is significant that David and his followers crossed a river as they left Jerusalem, and this gives a pointer to the meaning. The majority of the redeemed will also have "crossed a river" before they become Melchisedec priests, in that they will have left their posts of duty and succumbed to the power of the evil one. They will have allowed him who has "the power of death, that is, the devil", to so confuse their minds that they have never seen God's great plan for His followers, and therefore they will have accepted death.
The great "reward" that God has planned for His people and which has been realised by only two of the redeemed so far, is "translation", or "promotion to heaven" without passing through the agony of death. He who is Life wants to give life, and that, "more abundantly"! But this reward can only come at the conclusion of the duty!
Jesus tells us,
"I am the door. If a man goes in through Me, he will be safe and sound; he can come in and out and find his food. The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before". JOHN 10:9-10.
And in another place:-
"I assure you that the man who trusts in Him has eternal life already. I Myself am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, and they died. [Emphasis in original]. This is bread that comes down from Heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I Myself am the living bread which came down from Heaven, and if anyone eats this bread he will live forever. The bread which I give is My body, and I shall give it for the life of the world". JOHN 6:47-51.
And again when speaking to Mary,
"I Myself am the resurrection AND the life", Jesus told her. "The man who believes in Me will live even though he dies, AND anyone who is alive and believes in Me will never die at all. Can you believe that?"
It is also written for our benefit:
"For the One who makes men holy and the men who are made holy share a common humanity. So that He is not ashamed to call them His brothers, for He says:
"'I will declare Thy name unto My brethren,
in the midst of the congregation
will I sing Thy praise'.
"And again, speaking as a man, He says:
'And I will put My trust in Him'.
"And, in one more instance, in these words:
'Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me' "Since, then, "the children" have a common physical nature as human beings, He also became a human being, so that by going through death as a man He might destroy [confidence in] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might also set free those who lived their whole lives a prey to the fear of death. It is plain that for this purpose He did not become an angel; He became a MAN, in actual fact a descendant of Abraham". HEBREWS 2:11-16.
Thus those who are distinguished by the title "the sons of Zadok" are those who have overcome the "last enemy" - death - by remaining at their posts until the second advent of Jesus. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:26.
These are they who have NEVER left the side of their Saviour, not even for an instant. REVELATION 14:4. These are they who have so trusted in Him, and so rested in Him, that they can offer to Him "the fat and the blood". EZEKIEL 44:15. These are they who wear "linen garments, [for] no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court". Verse 17. These are they who do not "shave their heads, not let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed". Verse 20. These are they who, "When they go out to the outer court, to the outer court of the people, ... take off their garments in which they have ministered, leave them in the holy chambers, and put on other garments ..." Verse 19. These are they who ask for a second ministry, a second opportunity to do a greater work than this poor mortal body can do now.
The first class
But who are the gate-keepers?
God says of them that they are:-
"The Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols", and then He says, "they shall bear their iniquity, yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them". EZEKIEL 44:10.
In heaven, of course, they will not be offering the blood of animals, but will be showing the correct understanding of the "blood" of the sacrifice of Jesus, as it is written:
"But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 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? And for this reason He is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance". HEBREWS 9:11-15.
They have gone astray from God at the end of their lives. Not by going into sin, for all have done that including all of the sons of Zadok, but by allowing themselves to be so deluded by the deceiver that they have come to think that death is the natural end of life when it is really so unnatural! ROMANS 3:10-12. Jesus, our great Redeemer, pleaded earnestly three times in the Garden of Gethsemane to be allowed to fulfil His ministry in some other way, because His whole being recoiled in horror from the thought of the dissolution death brings. He could not bear the thought of separating from His LORD even for a moment, let alone three days, but when given the sad advice that this was now the only way to reach to His people, He accepted it.
"Then they arrived at a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples,
'Sit down here while I pray'.
He took with Him Peter, James and John, and began to be horror-stricken and desperately depressed.
'My heart is nearly breaking', He told them. 'Stay here and keep watch for Me'.
Then He walked forward a little way and flung Himself on the ground, praying that, if it were possible, He might not have to face the ordeal.
'Dear Father', He said, 'all things are
possible to You. Please - let Me not have
to drink this cup! Yet it is not what
I want but what You want'.
Then He came and found them fast asleep".
He didn't like it, but He stayed at His place of duty!
But He was the only Christian who needed to die!!!
And this because it is His "death" that seals the plan of redemption.
He could say to His Father,
"Now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am returning to You. Holy Father, keep the men You gave Me by Your power that they may be one, as We are one. As long as I was with them, I kept them by the power that You gave Me; I guarded them, and not one of them was destroyed, except the son of destruction - that the scripture might come true. And now I come to You, and I say these things in the world that these men may find My joy completed in themselves. I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of the world than I am. I am not praying that You will take them out of the world but that You will keep them from the evil one [and his power] ... I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in Me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as You, Father, live in Me and I live in You, I am asking that they may live in Us, that the world may believe that You did send Me". JOHN 17:11-21.
Some time later He said to His Father,
"I have brought You honour upon earth, I have completed the task which You gave Me to do".
Then He gave up His life and died, setting the seal to His object lesson that men might find a full redemption.
"Now to sum up - we have an ideal High Priest such as has been described above ... But Christ has been given a far higher ministry [now] for He mediates a higher agreement [now], which in turn rests upon higher promises. If the first agreement had proved satisfactory there would have been no need for the second.
"Actually, however, God does show Himself dis-satisfied for He says to those under the first agreement:
'Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for 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 on their heart also will I write them; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: And they shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them, for I shall be merciful to their iniquities and their sins will I remember no more'.
"The mere fact that God speaks of a NEW covenant or agreement makes the old one out of date. And when a thing grows weak and out of date it is obviously soon going to be dispensed with altogether". HEBREWS 8:1-13.
And in another place,
"So by virtue of the blood of Jesus [shed at the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8], you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the Holy of Holies by way of the One who died and is yet alive, Who has made for us a holy means of entry by Himself passing through the curtain, that is, His own human nature. [This means that Jesus also has changed His body for one which can do a different ministry.] Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of His blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation - for He is utterly dependable - and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds". HEBREWS 10:19-24.
With these thoughts set before us, how can we refuse Him? Why should we let His death be of no avail? Let us take the power He so freely offers us and complete our tasks as brothers of Melchisedec that He may be able to come again soon.
Even so, LORD Jesus. Amen.
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