Hebrews 4: The Great High Priest
In order to rest in Christ on earth and with Christ in heaven requires we be diligent and make every effort to do so. Our time to work is now- we will rest afterwards. We need to encourage one another and not give up meeting, and pay attention to the Word of God, which the author portrays as a ‘two-edged sword dividing asunder the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ Nothing is concealed from our Lord, as His Word turns us inside out and lays bare all that is in our hearts.
The author of Hebrews continues his comparison of Jesus to a variety of others: angels, priests, prophets, Moses etc. Remember this principle: comparison provides contrast and contrast provides clarity.
Verse 14: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest, who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” (NIV) Verse 14: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God let us hold fast our confession.” (KJV)
Now let us keep in mind the audience to which the writer is addressing these truths. The audience were 2nd generation Christians. The first generation from whom they had heard the Gospel were passing away. The temple still stood in existence carrying on its daily activities. The rituals, feasts, special days were still being observed by the Jews who had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. There was still all the grandeur and comfort and enjoyment of all of the Jewish religious activities.
The Christians of this time had no temple, no church buildings, no sacrifices, no rituals or ceremonies or feasts and special days. They missed this way of life. This old life which was comfortable, which was visible, which had been practiced for centuries. The ceremonies and the rituals were like old friends they missed and wanted to rejoin. Instead of experiencing the ‘rest of God’, their old nature desired the visible activities of the ongoing ritual activities of the priests, the temple and the high priest and his priestly duties.
The writer then begins an explanation of the superiority of Christ as high priest. He calls Jesus the Great High Priest. To be an earthly priest in the Jewish religion one had to be born in the line of Aaron, the tribe of Levi. Jesus was born in the line of Judah, the kingly line. No other high priest was called the Great High Priest. The writer tells us our Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens. Where does God dwell? The Lord said in Isaiah 66- ‘heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool.’ Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 12, ‘he was caught up to the third heaven.’ The Scriptures tell us of three heavens: the first heaven is atmosphere which surrounds the earth and produces rain, snow and the clouds; the second heaven contains the sun, moon, stars and planets as far as we have discovered. The third heaven is above all of these and is where God dwells. It has been called paradise by the Lord Jesus who told the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in paradise.
So our Great High Priest does not minister from an earthly tabernacle, but from a heavenly one. The earthly tabernacle was built by man according to God’ instructions and patterned after the one in heaven. The Russians when they first launched a satellite into the first heaven, said we saw no God, no heavenly dwelling. Of course they did not- for the third heaven is beyond all others. Our Great High Priest rules and ministers from a heavenly tabernacle. How much greater it is to have a High Priest who ministers from heaven above all other powers and has authority over all the earth and all the heavens. His ways are truly higher than the ways of the earthly priests.
Notice His name here: “Jesus the Son of God. Jesus, our Great High Priest, is both man and God. The name Jesus means Savior and identifies Him with humanity. The name Son of God affirms He is deity. He unites, like no one else who ever existed or will, humanity and deity. Only Jesus can bring people to God and God to people. He is the Great High Priest. He is the Great I am.
For these reasons, we are to hold fast to our confession of faith. We are anchored into Him in the third heaven. The third heaven is above earth and above all heavens. Everything is under His authority. He has passed outside the limits of time and space. There are no limits to His power. This is our Great High Priest, seated and enthroned on the throne of grace in heaven.
The earthly high priest disappeared from man’s view once a year to enter into the Holy of Holies beyond the veil on the Day of Atonement to offer a sacrifice of blood on the Mercy Seat. No one else could go beyond this veil. Our Great High Priest entered the throne room of heaven, to offer a sacrifice once and for all. The sacrifice was His very life. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Our Great High Priest died down here on Calvary to save us, and now He lives in heaven to keep us saved. This is why we can hold fast to our confession of faith down here regardless of the trials we face.
During the days of the temple and the high priest, no one entered the Holy of Holies but the high priest. But on the day the Lord died, the veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn from the top down. A new way had been opened for man now had a Great High Priest, the ultimate sacrifice which opened the way to the throne of grace.
“ For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, 16, KJV)
THE THRONE OF GRACE
The Reformation which led to the Protestant movement spear headed by Martin Luther had three Scriptural principles: No sacrifice but Calvary; No priest but Christ; and No confessional but the throne of grace.
A throne speaks of authority and power. What did the resurrected Lord Jesus tells his disciples before He ascended to heaven? “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28) Now remember our authority and power is derived from being under His authority. The centurion understood this Kingdom authority, but I fear, this is an area where we all struggle. The uniformed policeman holds up his hand and the huge semi-truck comes to a stop and will not go forward again until the policeman tells him to do so. The authority and power to stop this truck does not rest in this man. It rests in the authority he is under- the badge he wears represents the power of the city or state which he represents. As long as he is acting under this authority, he has this power. If this policeman was off duty, in plain clothes, had no badge and held up his hand to stop this truck, the truck and trucker would probably go right around him for he was not wearing the uniform and badge which represented the resource from which his power was derived.
This is why we put on the full armor of God for we cannot stop the enemy in our own power, we cannot even tell our old nature to stop, and unless it is in the name and will of the One from whom we derive our power and authority.
The Lord Jesus has all power and authority. He is our Great High Priest who invites us, encourages us to enter into the throne room of heaven where He is enthroned. Yet in spite of this highest of high positions- He, the Lord Jesus, Son of God invites us to enter the throne room, the Holy of Holies, boldly and with confidence for we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all points as we are tempted but without sin.
Stop and think about this the next time you pray. You are entering the throne room of grace, where seated there is the One who loves you and died for you. We, as believers, have the freedom to enter into His presence to obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need. Wisdom is ours for the asking, comfort when we are hurting, and power when we are weak. He wants to guide us through our troubles and whatever concerns us, concerns Him. He is not remote. He is not isolated and without understanding of what it is like to be a human with all the pressures, emotions and feelings we have. He knows what it is to be tempted, to be hurt, and to be misunderstood, to be betrayed and not believed. He had all the emotions we have. He laughed, He cried, He knew what it was like to live in a family, to earn a living, to be in a body which was mortal.
Yet He did not sin. He did not fail. Well, you think, He was God in flesh and I am not. You do understand this thought process is the reasoning of our old nature and the enemy of our soul who wants you to fail. Take a cue from our Great High Priest when facing the cross, and all that was entailed did not listen to the Peter when Peter said, you must not die. What did Jesus tell Peter – ‘get thee behind me, Satan. “ But Jesus, you persist in your argument, had no sin nature. That is right. And guess who indwells you- The Lord Jesus Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit. A new nature of which we are told, greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world. We have been justified. And the just shall live by faith.
When faced with the temptation to drink again after I first got saved and had only 30 days of very fragile sobriety. I had been given one verse – a promise the Lord had given me. This was my rhema, I Cor. 10: 13. The Lord had promised me He would not allow me to be tempted above that which I was able to bear, but would with the temptation make a way for me to escape, so I could bear it.
Understand this, Our Great High Priest is not only accessible, but sympathetic. If you have trusted Him as Savior, He lives within you- giving you the power and wisdom to overcome your sinful impulses so you can obey Him. And this is how we live by faith.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR A HIGH PRIEST (Hebrews 5: 1-6)
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And the man takes this honor to himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. But God said to him, “You are my son.” And He says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
These are the qualifications to be a priest in Israel.
- A priest must first be a man, in order to represent man. This why the Son of God laid aside His glory as God and humbled Himself to become a man, born as a babe in Bethlehem.
- A priest must offers sacrifices to deal with the sins which separate man from God. The Lord Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for the guilt of all mankind.
- A priest must himself be beset with weakness and sin in order that he might understand the problems and weaknesses of others. (We will revisit this in the next lesson in order to better understand how Jesus did not sin, yet understood our weakness.) For now we are discussing the qualifications for a priest.
- The priest must be appointed by God. “One does not take this honor on himself, but is appointed by God, just as Aaron was.”
The only priestly duty Jesus performed when He was here on earth was his last act- to die on the cross for our sins, therefore performing the duty of the priest to offer a sacrifice for our sins.
When the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us, His ministry was that of a Prophet and an Apostle, speaking for God.
He became our Great High Priest when He returned to Heaven, bringing His own blood to sprinkle on the Mercy Seat, turning the Mercy Seat into a throne of grace. He now serves and ministers to us as our Great High Priest in heaven. He represents us before God the Father.
He will return as King of Kings. We will see our Great High Priest fulfills the role of prophet, priest and king. (Order of Melchizedek)
We can come to the throne of mercy and grace as those who have been redeemed. The lost can come to throne of mercy and receive mercy and grace and truth.
To fail to do so in this time, will be to face Him at what will become the Great White Throne of Judgment.
Come now to throne of mercy and grace. Come as a lost person who wants to find the rest, you have never been able to find before.
Come as a believer to find mercy and grace to help in time of need. Come with confidence.
“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and Bless His name, for the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)
“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to Him in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior still our refuge- take it to the Lord in prayer; Do thy friends despise and forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there” (WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS)
What a wonderful song of God’s love and goodness toward us.
Jesus the Son of God, our Great High Priest. What a friend. What a privilege.
Have you been to Him today? Have you told Him you love Him? What are you waiting for?