“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” (Hebrews 5: 9-10).
The priesthood of Melchisedec has vital bearings on eschatology. Hyper-Preterists are tempted to confine Christ’s priesthood to the nation of Israel, and that prior to A.D. 70. But we know better. If Christ’s priesthood has ended, then it cannot have been ‘continual’ in any true sense. I am prepared to show, in the following article, that the priesthood of Melchisedec continues today; and that because it continues, Christ’s atonement for sin is still ongoing. The conclusion is that the world awaits a future second coming of Christ.
In Hebrews 7: 3, Paul tells us that Christ “abideth a priest continually.” A more precise rendering is, “He remaineth a priest in perpetuity.” This, of course, makes His priestly office extend beyond the destruction of Jerusalem. Let us remember that Melchisedec was a priest of God before the Mosaic economy was ratified. His priesthood properly belongs to the Adamic economy. Abraham did homage to Melchisedec (Hebrews 7: 4 ff.). By this homage we may learn that the Levitical priesthood is subservient to Christ’s everlasting priesthood.
Abraham was justified under the moral law, and not the ceremonial law. So the priesthood of Melchisedec belongs to the moral law. If the moral law remained in effect after A.D. 70, then so does the priesthood of Melchisedec. That means that Christ is still in the Holy Place.
However, if (as Hyper-Preterists say) the moral law was nullified at the destruction of Jerusalem, then there is no more need for Christ’s priesthood. For a priest offers atonement for sin. And “sin is transgression of the law” (1 John 3: 4). But “where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4: 15) If the moral law passed away in A.D. 70, what need is there for any priesthood? But Christ’s priesthood is called “everlasting.” Thus the moral law must have extended beyond A.D. 70.
Of course this means that sin & death are still in force. For “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6: 23). Death was defeated by Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, but its complete abolition belongs to a future period.
Note that both death & the ceremonial law were nullfied on the cross, but the latter only passed away at the dissolution of the Mosaic economy. The former shall pass away at the dissolution of the Adamic economy. That means the “end of the world!” The subject of fulfillment/annulment sometimes becomes confusing, because the two economies converged during Christ’s three-and-a-half year ministry. Christ is the Son of David, but is also the Son of Man (Adam). Thus His ministry has a dual frame of reference. Unless we understand the distinction between Adamic & Mosaic economies, we’ll never be able to tell what truly “passed away” in A.D. 70, and what remains.
Paul says that “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Hebrews 7: 12). The priesthood was ‘changed’ when the subservient Aaronic priesthood fell before that which was ratified by an oath (Hebrews 7: 21). If the priesthood of Christ was in effect prior to the ordination of the Levitical priesthood, then it has priority over the latter. This is an important point to keep in mind. Just as the ceremonial law is subservient to the moral law, so the Levitical priesthood is subservient to that of Melchisedec. The events of A.D. 70 cannot affect Christ’s everlasting priesthood. It stands today just as it did in Paul’s time!
Another fact we must keep in mind. When Moses was instructed to make the tabernacle, he copied from a Divine original (Hebrews 8: 5). This “worldly sanctuary” (Hebrews 9: 1) was a mere shadow of that sanctuary in the heavens, over which Melchisedec presides. Christ’s presence in the heavenly sanctuary is co-extensive with His session at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 8: 1-2). This sanctuary is pictured as coming down to earth during the Millennium.
After studying this issue for some time, I believe that this sanctuary is the “temple” described in the latter chapters of the prophet Ezekiel. It is identical to the temple mentioned in the Apocalypse, which will not be opened to the saints until the vials of wrath have been poured out (Rev. 15: 8; cf. Rev. 7: 15). It will descend from God out of heaven (Rev. 3: 12), and remain above the earth, until the Millennial dispensation is complete. At Christ’s coming the saints will be “caught up in the air” to fellowship with Christ in His Kingdom. The language of Scripture tells us that the anti-typical temple is real and substantial.
Of course, the destruction or removal of the worldly tabernacle does not affect the presence and function of the eternal. Christ is called an “everlasting” priest, for He ministers in the heavenly tabernacle. The earthly tabernacle was simply “a figure for the time then present” (Hebrews 9: 9). As a Divine institution it was nullified on the Cross (Matt. 27: 51), and taken away completely in A.D. 70. This, however, did not in the least affect the heavenly tabernacle. So, what happened exactly in A.D. 70? The natural shadows of the Mosaic law fled away before that spiritual substance which we now receive by faith. We must walk by faith, because Christ is absent. But when Christ returns, faith will be turned into sight (1 Cor. 13: 12).
Of course, no one will deny that it was Christ’s purpose to wrap up the Mosaic economy first, and give the nation of Israel time to embrace the Gospel. Perhaps Paul implies this when he says, “That by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9: 15). The Gospel was offered to the Jews first. Then it was extended to the Gentiles. But it is the same Gospel.
Note that Hebrews 9: 15 carries more than Mosaic significance. Because Paul mentions death (a distinctly Adamic doctrine), we are to interpret the term “First Testament” as embracing the whole Covenant of Works. It extends all the way back to Adam. Christ’s sacrificial death alone enabled men to pass into the New Covenant. Christ’s function as High Priest is a distincly New Covenant office. There is no way that the priestly functions can be limited to strictly Mosaic fulfillment, without making the New Covenant end in A.D. 70. The same atonement is still in effect today. Men still repent & accept Jesus Christ by faith, are still baptized, are still called into the New Covenant. Confession & absolution are still ongoing (1 John 1:9).
And here’s the main point. The fact of an ongoing atonement implies a future return! A return for what? Well, a return to vindicate God’s righteous government, and to reign over all the nations of the earth (Revelation 11: 15; Zechariah 14: 9)–something that never happened in A.D. 70. There must a final defeat of sin and evil, a vanquishing of death, and a resurrection of the just & of the unjust. Take a careful look at Hebrews 9: 24-28, and you’ll find that Christ’s presence in the Holy place implies and demands an approaching season when He shall come back to bring eternal life to all those who wait upon Him.
When Paul says, “He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second,” (Hebrews 10: 9), the “first” must be perceived as the Covenant of Works. The transition is effected in Jesus Christ alone, and through faith in His blood. Howbeit, as the Mosaic economy was ‘passing away’ from A.D. 30-70, and completely removed at the destruction of Jerusalem, so the Adamic economy is passing away even now. The heavens and earth are ‘waxing old, as doth a garment‘ (Hebrews 1: 11). The moral law will remain in effect until “heaven and earth pass away” (Matt. 5: 18). It is important that we remember this. When Christ says, “until heaven and earth pass away,” He is speaking of the Genetic economy.
Those who deny a future Second Coming must (by implication) deny Christ’s perpetual priesthood. In that case, there is no more intercession for sin! Is such a theory Scriptural? Of course not. Friends, It is impossible that 2,000 years of Spirit-anointed teachers were wrong in regard to the return of Christ. The world still awaits “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3: 19). The creation still groans, awaiting its redemption from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8: 19 ff.). The Second Coming of Christ is still future!
Paul, speaking of Christ’s impending parousia (Hebrews 10: 37), says that “The just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10: 38). Once again, he is referring to the perpeteuity of the moral law, for he reminds us of the faith of Abraham. Again, Abraham was justified under the moral law, before circumcision was given (Romans 4: 10). Thus, the parousia to which Paul refers has nothing to do with the Mosaic economy. Faith was required of the nation of Israel, but it is not a Mosaic concept. It is an Adamic concept. The mechanics of faith (including justification, final rewards, resurrection, etc.) are bound up in the Adamic economy. Our High Priest will leave the Holy Place only when the age has come to an end.
But still men look out their windows and ask, will Christ rend the heavens and come down to earth? Will the heavens and earth really be shaken? Paul speaks of the shaking of heaven and earth in Hebrews 12: 26-29. This will result in the manifestation of Christ’s glorious kingdom. The kingdom we are to receive (Hebrews 12: 28) is the “city which hath foundations,” the spiritual Jerusalem, which descendeth out of heaven, and cometh down to us. It is Salem, the kingdom over which Melchisedec rules and reigns (Hebrews 7: 2). It is a kingdom of righteousness and peace. It is the Kingdom which shall be manifested in glory when the wheat & tares of everlastingly separated at the “end of the age” (Matt. 13: 40-43). The coming of Christ’s kingdom is an event to which all the saints may glady look forward.
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