The Kingdom of God, Part IV - The Priestly Reign of Christ
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 2, 2000
Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
We have been studying Psalm 110, which speaks about the kingdom of God. We have spoken about the powerful reign of Christ, the present spiritual reign of Christ in the evangelization of the world. In this study we will examine the priestly reign of Jesus Christ. First, though, we want to examine the role of Jesus Christ as a mediator between God and man.
The Great Mediator
Jesus Christ is our great mediator, as we read in 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." The Lord Jesus Christ is a fit mediator who alone is qualified and able to mediate between two very different parties, God and man. What qualifies Jesus to be such a mediator? His sinless humanity and his Godhood. These two natures in the same person is the essential and necessary qualification for being a fit mediator between God and man. Only Jesus Christ is both God and man; thus, only he can adequately represent God to us and us to God.
As mediator Jesus Christ has three offices. First, he is a prophet; he speaks to us in behalf of God. We read about Jesus functioning in this office in Hebrews 1:2: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." God speaks to us infallibly through our mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the prophet par excellence.
Second, Jesus Christ functions as our king. The Bible tells us he is seated at the right hand of God the Father. From there, as the Sovereign Lord of the universe, he rules us in behalf of God the Father.
Third, Jesus Christ functions as our great high priest. We find this role especially explained in the book of Hebrews. Christ presents us to God as a perfect people fit and qualified to have fellowship with God. But how can sinners have fellowship with God? This is possible only because, as the perfect priest, Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice of himself in our behalf, and his sacrifice was accepted by the God the Father. Thus, those who trust in Christ are clothed in Christ's righteousness and accepted by God in Christ.
These, then, are the three offices of our one mediator between God and man, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we study the kingdom of God as seen in Psalm 110, we see Jesus Christ operating in these roles, especially in his roles as king and priest.
The Ultimate Reality
Psalm 110 speaks about the ultimate reality in the universe, which is the kingdom of God. Only Christians are able to recognize this truth, that ultimate reality is, not the kingdoms of this world, but the kingdom of God. We see this truth by faith, for, as Paul says, we walk not by sight but by faith in the word of God. We see this truth also by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle John did when he was on the island of Patmos. In the book of Revelation we read that John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day when he heard an invitation: "Come up here." John saw a door opened in heaven, a throne and someone sitting upon it, who was God himself. It was the Holy Spirit who enabled John to have this glimpse of ultimate reality, and that is how we see it also.
I pray that all of us will by faith and by the Spirit come up into the heavenlies and see the kingdom of God! I hope we all can see that neither we nor anything in this world is the ultimate reality. Only the kingdom of God, which means God's absolute rule, authority, and power, is ultimate reality. I hope that we all may see the throne in heaven, as John did, and the One seated upon it.
When we see the kingdom of God, we realize that Jesus Christ is now ruling with God the Father in heaven. His days of humiliation are over and he has been exalted to sit at the right hand of God the Father, having been declared by his Father to be the Son of God in power. Therefore, do not weep for our Lord Jesus Christ! He is no longer hanging on a tree. He is no longer in the manger nor in the grave. He has risen, ascended, and is seated on the right hand of God the Father. This eternal Son, the Lord of David, the Son of David, the royal Son, is Lord of all and head of the church. He is our Lord and our God.
This is the present position, power, and dignity of Jesus Christ. God has put him in the place of greatest honor and power to rule and reign in behalf of him. And the Bible tells us Christ will rule in power and wisdom until every enemy has been made his footstool. Every enemy will eventually be conquered, subdued, judged, and confined to the lake of fire forever and ever, so that even hell will give praise and glory to the One who is seated on the throne.
After the Order of Melchizedek
But not only is Jesus Christ the king of the universe, he is also our priest, and that is the function we want to examine in this study. We read about the present priesthood of Christ especially in the epistle to the Hebrews. According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus Christ is the great high priest, after the order of Melchizedek.
Who is Melchizedek? We read about him in three places in the Bible: Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews. In Genesis 14 we read that Melchizedek, king of Salem, or Jerusalem, came out to meet Abraham after Abraham defeated the allied forces of four kings of the east. After Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine, he blessed him, and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of everything.
Melchizedek's name means "king of righteousness." He was also king of Salem, or Jerusalem; therefore, he is called king of peace-king of righteousness and king of peace. The Scriptures are silent about his ancestry, birth, and death, but we told that he was a priest of El-Elyon, the most high God, the true God.
Although we are not told anything in the Scriptures about the beginning or end of his priesthood, we gather from two things that we read in Genesis 14 that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham. First, Abraham gave a tithe of everything to Melchizedek as the lesser would give to one greater. Second, Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham, and, according to the Bible, the greater blesses the lesser. From Hebrews 7 we also learn that this Melchizedek was superior to Levi, and, thus, his priesthood was superior to the Aaronic priesthood. Thus, the Melchizedek of Genesis 14 serves as a symbol and type of Jesus Christ, who truly is the King of righteousness and King of peace, who is without beginning and without end, and whose priesthood is superior to that of Aaron.
The first thing that we note about the priesthood of Jesus Christ is that he does function as both king and priest at the same time. This idea of both roles being performed by one person was not practiced in ancient Judaism, although built into Judaism was the certain expectation of two personages who would appear at the end of time: one would function as the anointed king, the messiah, and the other as the anointed priest.
No king of Israel, however, ever functioned both as king and priest. There were checks and balances within Judaism to prevent this, for the Bible understood that human beings are fallen and that the accumulation of power will produce sure corruption. There was one king of Judah, Uzziah, who tried to function as a priest also. Uzziah was a very powerful king, but desiring more power, he tried to seize the priesthood also. He entered the temple one day and tried to offer incense at the altar of incense, refusing to stop even after several priests told him, in essence, "Uzziah, this privilege doesn't belong to you; it belongs to Aaron. You are the king and we are the priests." Uzziah would not listen to the priests, so the Lord himself struck him with leprosy. He was quickly ushered out of the temple and lived as a leper for the rest of his life as a reminder of his arrogant actions.
But when we read Psalm 110 carefully, we are introduced the idea of a future person who would function both as king and priest. We find a similar prophecy in Zechariah 6:12-13. There we read, "Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch,'" which is a name for Christ, "'and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne.'"
So in the prophecy of Zechariah as well as in the prophecy of David in Psalm 110 we find a person who will function both as king and a priest. There is only one person who is qualified to do this: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is seated even now on the throne in heaven, not only as king who rules us in behalf of God, but also as priest who makes intercession in behalf of us to God.
An Appointed Priest
The second thing we note about the priesthood of Christ is that he is an appointed priest. Every priest in the Old Testament was appointed to that office by God himself. Jesus Christ, who is seen as the priest after the order of Melchizedek, which is a superior priesthood, was also appointed by God to his office. We read about this in Hebrews 5:4-5: "No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' And he says in another place, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'"
A Priest by Oath of the Father
The third thing we note about the priesthood of Christ is that he is a priest by oath of the Father. No other priest on earth entered into his office by virtue of an oath. The only priest who did so is our Lord Jesus Christ, who entered into his superior ministry not only by the appointment of the Father but also by an oath from God the Father.
In Psalm 110:4 we read, "The Lord has sworn and he will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" If God makes a promise, we can be sure that promise will come true. In fact, we really never need an oath at all from God, because God's word is always true. God cannot lie, as we read in Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" In Titus 1:2 we also read, "God, who does not lie. . ."
There is no evil in God. He cannot lie and his word always is fulfilled. Why, then, did God also use an oath when he appointed his Son as our great King/Priest? God did it for our own assurance, to give us greater security. God was telling us, "Finally I am going to give you a priest who will not fail you, who will be a priest forever, a perfect priest, who will offer a perfect sacrifice which will be accepted by me in your behalf. Because of this priest you can be sure of your eternal salvation."
God swore an oath because he was thinking about us. He wanted us to have great assurance and security in the certainty of our salvation and know that our great high priest took care of our sin problem forever. That is why we are told that God has sworn and will not change his mind. It is God's eternal determination that his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a superior priest who will ensure our total salvation.
In Jesus Christ we have a superior priesthood and a perfect priest who offered once for all a perfect sacrifice, who, with his perfect sacrifice secured for us a perfect, infallible, and eternal salvation which is given to every person who trusts in this great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Eternal High Priest
The fourth thing we are told about this high priest is that he is a high priest forever. As we all are, the Aaronic priests were sinners who died, one after the other. They were not characterized by indestructible lives. Remember the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu? They were priests, yet when they did unauthorized things in the presence of God, they were destroyed. All human high priests are characterized by the human problems of sin, death, and mortality.
But Jesus Christ is a priest like Melchizedek who had no beginning or end and remains a priest forever. So in Hebrews 6:20 we read, "[Jesus] has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek." In Hebrews 7:3 we read, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God [Melchizedek] remains a priest forever." In Hebrews 7:23-24 we read, "Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood."
What does this mean for us? Think of Jesus' own words, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19). What great security, great assurance, great confidence we can have in our salvation! Jesus tells us in Revelation 1:18, "I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Relying on his sacrifice, salvation, and intercession, we can be filled with great confidence and assurance.
A Sympathizing High Priest
The fifth point we are told about this high priest is that he is a sympathizing high priest. Every priest, we are told, is selected from among men and so he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. What about the Lord Jesus Christ? Is he able to sympathize with us and with our weaknesses? Or is he so transcendent that he cannot identify with sinners who are beaten about by every kind of wind of temptation, troubles, weaknesses, and trials? Yes, he is appointed to the priesthood by God, and yes, he is appointed by an oath. But can he sympathize with us? The answer of the Scripture is yes, absolutely, Jesus Christ is able to sympathize with us. In fact, it is for this purpose that the eternal Son became man. He shared in our humanity so that he could suffer and die in our behalf and for our salvation.
Was Jesus Christ above temptation? Not at all. In Hebrews 4:15 we read, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses," or, to put it positively, "For we have a high priest who is quite able to sympathize with our weaknesses." Why is it? "But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin." We must accept this biblical declaration that Jesus Christ was tempted in every way as we are tempted.
Now we must understand that Jesus Christ in his human nature was not omniscient. Jesus himself tells us this in Mark 13:32 in reference to the second coming of Christ, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." This means that Jesus Christ in his human nature did not know everything. This also tells us that Jesus Christ in his human nature did not know he could not sin. The Bible tells us that it was impossible for Christ, who is God, to sin, but in his human nature Jesus did not know that. So when he was tempted, Jesus did not yield to temptation but learned obedience through suffering. He walked in the will of God continually and to the very end.
In Isaiah 50 we read something interesting about our Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 4-5 we read, "The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back." Here is the one person in the history of the universe who was not rebellious.
Jesus Christ always obeyed his Father in spite of temptations that he faced daily. So in verses 6-7 we read, "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."
The Son of God did not experience any exemption from temptation or suffering. In fact, even though he performed miracles for many other people, he never performed a miracle to help himself. Additionally, we must understand that Jesus, our second Adam, had to face worse conditions than Adam ever faced in paradise. So Jesus Christ was tempted, but in godly fear, eusebeia, and godly submission, he walked the path of suffering and thus became perfect as our Savior. It is through suffering he became fit and qualified to be the author and source of our salvation.
Therefore, when we ask the question, "Is Jesus Christ able to sympathize with us?" what is the answer? Yes. He knows, he knows, he knows. Our Lord Jesus Christ knows who we are, what our problems are, where we are, and what is happening to us at all times. He is our truly sympathetic high priest.
Who Is This High Priest?
The sixth point we want to examine is who this high priest is. Jesus Christ himself asked the question, "Who do you say that I am?" It is the most important question we can ask.
Who is Jesus? He is the eternal Son, co-equal with the Father. He is the creator of all, as we are told in Hebrews 1. He is the final prophet, David's Lord and David's royal Son. He is the forever high priest who, by his self-sacrifice, made purification for the sins of his people. He is the great King/Priest.
In Hebrews 8:1 we find the profound understanding of the writer to the Hebrews of who Jesus is. He writes, "The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. . . ."
Jesus is the enthroned high priest, the ruling high priest, the seated high priest, because he completed his work. None of the earthly priests could ever sit. They always had to stand because their work was never done. They were imperfect priests offering daily imperfect sacrifices. But this priest is enthroned and seated because his work is finished. He made purification for sin and from the cross he said, "It is finished." No one can add anything to the perfect work of atonement of Jesus Christ. The idea of a seated, enthroned high priest, Jesus Christ, speaks against any addition to his work.
How arrogant man is to think he can add anything to the perfect work of this great high priest! Nothing needs to be added. All other priests were sinful, but this one was without sin. In Hebrews 4:15 we read, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin." In Hebrews 7:26 we read, "Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens."
We are a needy, sinful, guilty, condemned people. But in the fullness of time, God sent to us a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, one who is a priest forever, a perfect priest, who did the work of atonement and finished it. That is why the writer says, "Such a high priest meets our need-one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." The sinless one who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.
Our high priest Jesus Christ was the perfect victim, without defect or blemish. The Bible tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse our guilt, but the blood of this perfect victim, Jesus Christ, cleanses us from all our sins. It alone blots out our transgressions, leaving no trace. This high priest, who is seated in the heavens, is the source and captain of our perfect salvation. There is no salvation in any other. He alone saves his people from their sins; that is why he is called Jesus (Matt. 1:21).
Additionally, not only is Jesus Christ the source and captain of our salvation, but he is also, by divine oath, the guarantor of our eternal salvation. In Hebrews 7:22 we read, "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." We cannot count on human guarantors because they die. But in Jesus Christ, who is characterized by an indestructible life, we have a guarantor who ensures our eternal salvation.
What does it mean that Jesus is a guarantor? It means that he guarantees to God that his people will be fully acceptable to him. That is the essence of the covenant between God and man. God tells us, "You are my people and I am your God." Jesus Christ, our mediator, guarantees that we will be acceptable to God and that God will be our God.
By his person and work Jesus Christ is our mediator and our guarantor. Therefore, we can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. As the apostle Paul says, "We rejoice in tribulations also," knowing that nothing in all creation is "able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." What everlasting comfort comes to us from this great high priest who is seated on the throne, having finished his perfect work of redemption!
A High Priest Able to Help
The seventh thing we learn about this high priest is that he is able to help us. In Hebrews 2:16-18 we read, "For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." This high priest is able to help us. Yes, he is merciful and faithful, he never breaks his covenant, and we can count on him. But he also helps us.
We need help. We are tempted, tossed, and troubled daily by the storms of life. Remember the story of the disciples going across the Sea of Galilee in the boat? When a great storm arose, Jesus was sleeping in the boat. The disciples woke him up, saying, "Lord, don't you care if we perish?" Then he calmed the storm and comforted his disciples. He is able to help us.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul writes, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Our Lord Jesus Christ is faithful, merciful, and able, and he provides a way out so that we don't have to yield to temptation. He made a perfect atoning sacrifice once for all and it was accepted by the Father. God raised him from the dead and seated him on his right hand. That tells us Christ's sacrifice has been accepted, and so he is now able to help us.
Jesus Christ is committed to help, not angels, but human beings. Angels sinned before human beings did, but we don't read in the Bible of any plan of redemption for angels. The Lord Jesus Christ did not become an angel to redeem angels. He became a man in order to help the descendants of Abraham.
Christ became man and died in our behalf. There is wonderful power in the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It helps us. So the Bible instructs us to draw near to the throne of grace in confidence, trusting in Christ's perfect atonement, for the one seated on it is our sympathetic great high priest. (PGM) He is our merciful and faithful elder brother who shows mercy and grace to help us in time of need and temptation. We can go to him with confidence and ask him, "O God, help us. Make a way out for us. We trust in your perfect atonement."
The Intercessor Par Excellence
The eighth point about this high priest is that he is our heavenly intercessor. H. B. Swete says that the chief work now of our Lord Jesus Christ is prayer in behalf of the church. He is fully engaged in it.
Jesus Christ, our great high priest, is enthroned in the heavenlies on the right hand of the Majesty, God the Father Almighty. It is the place of greatest honor, power, and dominion. Not only does he rule as a king and priest, but he also intercedes with the Father in behalf of us sinners. Jesus Christ is ever engaged in prayer, not for himself but for us. Is the Father reluctant to hear and grant his request? No. Christ asks what he wills on behalf of his people from a Father who always hears and grants his request.
We find this idea of intercession implied in John 14:16, where Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor," or Advocate, "to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth." This Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son was poured out on the day of Pentecost as a direct result of Christ's effectual intercession.
We find other intercessors in the Bible. For instance, in Exodus 32 we read that the people of Israel turned away from God soon after they left Egypt. These people, whom God miraculously redeemed out of slavery and brought out from Egypt, perverted themselves at Mount Sinai. When Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, the people left below engaged in idolatry, which is the worst form of sin. Moses stopped them and then returned to God.
In Exodus 32:31-32 we read, "So Moses went back to the Lord and said, 'Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.'" In fact, this is the same sin people are committing now, the same sin that Jesus Christ identified when he said we serve either God or Mammon, because greed is idolatry. Moses continued, "'But now, please forgive their sin. . . .'" That is the intercession of Moses. Then he said something very serious. "But if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." In other words, Moses was praying, "God, let me be accursed." Here was a leader whose heart was so tender and sympathetic toward his sheep that he offered to be cursed on their behalf. "Blot me out!" Moses was saying. In Romans 9:3-4 Paul used the same language in behalf of his Jewish brothers, saying, "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel."
Although he offered to do so, Moses did not go to hell in behalf of his people, nor did Paul. But there is one who really went to hell in our behalf-our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who is now enthroned in heaven interceding in our behalf, and we know that what his intercession is effectual. Hebrews 3:3 tells us Jesus is "worthy of greater honor than Moses." Yes, this great high priest is superior to Moses as a son in the home is superior to a servant.
The High Priestly Prayer of Christ
Jesus Christ began his intercessory work while he was still on earth, and we find an example of this in the high priestly prayer recorded in John 17. In verse 6 Jesus prays, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours. . . ." We are the Father's donation to the Son that he may save us. In other words, we were the possession of God the Father, who gave us to his Son and told him to redeem us. Jesus continues, "You gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me, and they accepted them."
In verse 9 Jesus makes an interesting statement: "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours." Humanity is divided into two groups of people-the people of the world and the people who are the Father's donation to the Son to be redeemed. Then Jesus continues, "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine."
In verse 11 Jesus prayed, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one." That is the intercession of this great high priest while he was on earth. In verses 13-15 he prays, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one."
How do we know that we are protected from the evil one? Because the intercession of this great high priest is always effectual. Jesus Christ always prays in behalf of us in accordance with the will of God. That is why we are protected. I believe in the total security of a believer in Jesus Christ because this prayer, "Protect them," has been heard by God the Father and is in accordance with his will.
At this point you may tell me, "I know someone who professed to be a Christian but he is no longer walking with God. Why wasn't he protected and kept by God, as Jesus requested?" The answer is that such a person was not a Christian to begin with. The Bible clearly teaches that a true Christian shall persevere to the very end because Christ will enable him to do so.
Not only did Jesus pray for his immediate disciples while he was on earth, but he also interceded specifically for us. We find that prayer beginning in verse 20, where he prays, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." That is speaking about us. We came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ through the message that the apostles proclaimed and which has been proclaimed throughout the centuries.
The Effectiveness of Christ's Intercession
This idea of Christ's intercessory work was prophesied in Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Certainly this was fulfilled in Christ's death on the cross, when he prayed, "Father, forgive their sins."
In Luke 22 we find a specific instance of the intercession of our great high priest in reference to one of his disciples, Peter. In verse 31 Jesus told Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat." In other words, Jesus was telling Peter, "Do you think you are very great? You underestimate Satan. He can throw you up and you will fall, sifted like wheat." But then Jesus continued, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." This is specific intercession for Peter, and, therefore, for the church. Then Jesus concluded, "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
We cannot escape being sifted by Satan. Jesus Christ himself was not exempt from temptation, as we said earlier. He was tempted at every point that we are tempted, and it was real temptation. So Satan sifts, but the Son intercedes, and we succeed, even though we may stumble at times. Why do you think you and I can stand at all as Christians? Because of the effectual intercession of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul understood this truth, as did the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. In Hebrews 7:23-25 we read, "Now there have been many of those priests [of the Aaronic priesthood], since death prevented them from continuing in office, but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who are come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them."
We must come to God, but we cannot come to him on our own, so God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit draw us, and we come freely. If you are not coming to this Christ, you must question if you are included in the Father's donation of people to the Son. If that were to be true, your destiny is already determined, and it is not good. I pray that if you are living and breathing, you will cry out to God and come to him.
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God. . . ." That speaks of faith and repentance, which themselves are gifts of God, God-generated qualities within us. So the writer says, ". . . those who come to God through him because he always lives," for one purpose. What is it? "to intercede for them." In other words, this intercessory work of our great heavenly high priest is an ongoing, continuous activity. It is not something he did in the past but no longer does. Whether I am awake or asleep, he intercedes on my behalf. Yes, we also pray for each other, and I am sure God hears those prayers. But whenever we pray, there is someone else praying whose prayers are always effectual. The Lord Jesus Christ always intercedes for us, continuously praying for our every need.
Nowadays few people take time to pray. In fact, I recently heard that some pastors say they are praying only two minutes a day at most. Woe unto such pastors who don't have time for prayer! We have all become too involved in the tyranny of the urgent. I pray that we change and begin to emulate our great high priest by spending much time in prayer.
Now, because Jesus Christ intercedes for us doesn't mean that we no longer need to pray. The Bible clearly teaches that we also must pray. We must pray earnestly, passionately, pointedly, tearfully, with fasting, with purpose, specifically, and always. Such prayer is hard work, and our God, who is able to help us, does help us in this area of prayer. But having said that, we also can rejoice in the fact that we have a high priest seated in the heavenlies who is engaged in continuous, effectual prayer on our behalf. He always lives to intercede for us.
The Work of a High Priest
What was the job of the high priest? First, it was to offer sacrifices to God in behalf of the people he represented. Did Jesus do this? Yes. Our perfect priest offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, which satisfied the demand of the Father.
Second, a high priest interceded in behalf of the people. He prayed. As we just said, that is what our Lord Jesus Christ is doing now. Having offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, without spot or wrinkle, he is now engaged in the great activity of perpetual prayer for you and for me.
What is the third thing a high priest does? Pronounce the benediction, the blessing. "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace," was the Aaronic blessing as recorded in Numbers 6:24-26. In the same vein, our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, was blessing his disciples on the Mount of Olives as he ascended up into heaven, as we read in Luke 24:51, and he is still engaged in blessing his people.
Paul speaks about this blessing in Romans 8, the great chapter on assurance of salvation. Beginning with verse 34, we read something that should give us great comfort. In verse 33 we read, "Who can bring any charge against those whom God has chosen. It is God who justifies." And in verse 34 Paul asks, "Who is he that condemns?" That is the question. Earlier in Romans 5:1 Paul said, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God." Now he asks, "If God has justified us, who is he that condemns?" In other words, "Who is he that brings us bad news? Who is he that seeks to confuse us and give us reason for discouragement?"
In this passage we find four answers coming from the Holy Spirit. First, Paul says, "Christ Jesus who died. . . ." In other words, the first answer is that Christ died for our sins. But there is a close second answer, because Christ only died, Paul would have just made a very hopeless statement. Yes, Christ died, but many other people have died in the history of the world. There is no hope if that is all you can say. So Paul makes a second statement right away: ". . . more than that, was raised to life." That is his second point. The one who died for our sins has also been raised and declared by the Father to be the Son of God in power. As Paul wrote earlier in Romans 4:25, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." We have to see the death and resurrection of Christ together to have hope.
What is the third answer found in this passage? "[Jesus Christ] is at the right hand of God." That speaks about the enthronement of our great high priest. God glorified him and he has entered into a state of exaltation, power, and glory.
But what is he doing-this one who died, this one who was raised, this one who is at the right hand of the Father? Interceding. So Paul writes, "And [he] is also interceding for us." I don't know about you, but that word gives me great comfort. Who is he that intercedes on my behalf? He is the King. He is the Son of God. He is our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we said before, his intercession, his prayer, is always effectual. So who is he that condemns? No one. That is why Paul could write, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
The Intercessory Work of the Holy Spirit
Not only does the Son represent us before God the Father and intercede for us in the heavenlies, which is his high priestly function, but also the Son himself sent the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us from the earth.
We read about this intercessory work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:26:27. Paul begins, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness," or our infirmity. We are a people with infirmity, not knowing how to pray or what to pray. Additionally, we are loaded with infirmities of every sort and kind which hinder our prayers. But the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Paul continues, "We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts," that is, God, "knows the mind of the Spirit. . . ." God searches our hearts and translates the groans of the Holy Spirit, which contain prayers according to the will of God. So Paul says, "And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
We are doubly secure. First, we have a high priest in the heavenlies praying for us, not two minutes a day but always. Second, we have the Holy Spirit, who prays in and through us with groans that cannot be uttered. God, who searches our hearts, translates those groans and grants exactly what the Holy Spirit prayed in behalf of us.
What a great high priest we have! He is great not only in his person but also in his work. As perfect priest, he offered in our behalf the perfect sacrifice of himself to God. Additionally, he also made us perfect, which means he made us fit to come to the presence of God. He now makes effectual intercession for us and blesses us with a blessing, not pronounced by a weak priest of the Aaronic priesthood, but by him who is the great high priest after the order of Melchizedek, who is enthroned to rule and reign in the heavenlies. Our high priest, who is truly King of righteousness and King of peace, lives forever. Oh, may we even now hear his blessing as it comes to us from heaven!
Christ Also Deals with Enemies
If you are a child of God, you will be blessed by the great high priest, Jesus Christ. But if you are an enemy of Jesus Christ, beware. There is no blessing by this high priest for the enemies of God.
In Hebrews 10:12-13 we read, "But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time, he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool." Remember what we read in Psalm 110? Verse 1 says, "The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" Intercession is one chief work of Christ, but there is another thing that he does as king: he subdues his enemies, making them his footstool.
In Hebrews 10:26 the writer speaks about God's dealings with his enemies. If you have rebellion in your heart, I hope you will pay attention to this serious warning given to the church: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." And in verses 28-31 we read, "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace. For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
May God give us fear that we will not trample his Son, the reigning Christ and the reigning priest, under our feet; that we will not treat the blood of the covenant, this most precious blood, as something contemptible; and that we will not treat the Spirit of grace with contempt. This warning is written not for pagans, but for anyone in the church who is not yielding to the reigning Christ. He has done his work and sat down at the right hand of God, and now he is waiting for one thing: the time when his enemies are brought down. In reality, no one will ever trample the Son of God under his foot. It is an utter impossibility. It is his foot that will trample every rebel in the entire universe.
If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, let me assure you, there is no other Savior, no other High Priest, no other King, and no other Lord. If you are depressed, miserable, and confused, perhaps it is because of your sheer arrogance and stubborn refusal to surrender to this enthroned King, Priest Jesus Christ our Lord, the captain of our salvation, the source of eternal salvation, who became fit to save us through his suffering. He made us fit to appear before the Father-with one sacrifice he perfected forever those are being sanctified. Not only is he the perfect Savior, but he perfected us to come before God. But without this enthroned Priest/King, we can never come before God the Father and never experience salvation. We must praise God for our great Savior and our great high priest, who is seated, enthroned, and engaged in the great and wonderful task of interceding for his people, those who will honor the Son of God, who will trust in the blood of the covenant, and who will appreciate greatly the Spirit who applies grace to them. And not only do we have an intercessor in heaven, but we have one on earth as well, and both are engaged in prayer for our welfare. Let me tell you, the prayers of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are always effectual. They will enable us to stand, live, and persevere unto the very end.
May God help us to trust in his Son, Jesus Christ, even this day! May we receive great comfort and encouragement that we are ever before him, and he is ever praying for us. May we rejoice that we are not destroyed but saved, kept by the hand of Christ and the hand of the Father. Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™