“And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One Who said to Him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind. Thou art a priest forever.’); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.”
And inasmuch as is a reference to an oath made at the time of the eternal decrees. When God started this phase of the eternal decrees that involved us, the royal family and the royal priesthood, He swore by an oath [by Himself because there was no greater]. When He came to the Church Age He took an oath on the basis of His own immutable, unchangeable, perfect character. Then, having taken the oath He promised the Church Age, a royal priesthood, a royal high priest, and a Savior. By union with Christ through the baptism of God the Holy Spirit we share in the oath that God the Father made to God the Son with regard to His royalty; He promised Him a royal family, a royal bride, a royal priesthood, and He promised this would be perpetuated forever.
So at the time of the declaration of the divine decrees pertaining to the appointment of Jesus Christ as a royal high priest, God the Father took an oath mentioned in this phrase. God the Father never took an oath with regard to the Levitical priesthood. The decree in Psalm 110:4 shows how God authorized the royal priesthood through the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ as a high priest forever. By union with Christ we share in that appointment just as we share in the priesthood. At the time of the declaration of the divine decrees pertaining to the appointment of Jesus Christ as a royal priest, God the Father took an oath mentioned in the prepositional phrase “and not apart from taking an oath.” Since God the Father never took an oath regarding the Levitical priesthood, we see the superiority of the royal priesthood over the Levitical priesthood.
In order to understand verse 21 there are three things we need to know first. First of all, this verse is parenthetical. It indicates the superiority of the royal priesthood over the Levitical in relationship to the divine oath. Secondly, the sentence was begun in verse 20 and is completed in verse 22. Thirdly, the word order is very different in the Greek text and therefore we will have to follow from time to time the word order of the Greek text in understanding verse 21.
For is used to explain how God giving a solemn oath relates to the Levitical priesthood. God, in eternity past, was declaring that there would be a royal priesthood, greater than the Levitical priesthood, superseding the Levitical priesthood, and being a priesthood, forever. And, it is a priesthood which operates in the soul. The whole function of the royal priesthood of the dispensation in which we live is to get doctrine into the soul, not hustling for God. This is to be our objective. Then, after getting doctrine into the soul, the next objective is to get to the place where God can bless us. We do this through the intake of Bible doctrine. Our job is to take in doctrine in order to reach spiritual maturity where the Lord Jesus Christ can be glorified. He is glorified when blessings are poured out in your life.
Our priesthood is based upon something which is absolutely, totally unusual. God not only appointed you a priest forever but He made it sure by saying, “I swear in my own name.” So the Lord Jesus Christ became a guarantee of a better covenant. The Mosaic Law was a covenant; Christ’s is a better covenant.
“And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently.”
Now we have the superiority established on the basis of the perpetuation of a priesthood. The moment the Levitical priests died they were all through functioning as priests. That means that the Levitical priests who are now in Heaven, aren’t functioning as priests. There is only one priesthood in Heaven and that’s the royal priesthood. Death doesn’t stop, prevent or hinder the Lord Jesus Christ or us from being priests, we go on forever. In fact, we have the guarantee of that from the eternal decrees when God made a solemn oath.
So we have a contrast between the Levitical priesthood which was a bona fide function in the Age of Israel and the royal priesthood which functions in the dispensation of the Church, and forever because we have indestructible life in Christ. Many of the members of the Levitical priesthood were unbelievers and will not even be in Heaven, but the ones who are will not be there as priests - they will be there as members of the family of God. So now we have two categories from the Age of Israel. David was a king but in eternity David is just a member of the family of God, whereas you are royalty for all eternity. Aaron was a high priest but in eternity Aaron is a member of the family of God and you are a royal priest. So they functioned in time only. God has given you not only eternal life as a believer but indestructible life which means you are a priest forever, and you will function as a priest forever.
Jesus Christ in His humanity is no longer subject to death. Therefore He continues to function as High Priest. When Jesus Christ went to the Cross and bore our sins, the Father judged our sins in Christ. When He had finished bearing our sin He said He had finished so we would know that salvation was completed. Then He died physically. He was resurrected on the third day, He ascended, and was seated at the right hand of the Father where He continues His high priestly ministry. So resurrection is the perpetuation of His priestly ministry at the right hand of the Father forever. Christ’s high priesthood is unlike the Levitical priesthood which had many high priests.
If our high priest lives for ever, and He does, so must we as members of the royal priesthood. Remember, we are in union with Christ. Death did not terminate His priesthood; it continued in resurrection and continues forever. We are a kingdom of priests, we continue forever. Therefore, in anticipation of the next verse, all members of the royal priesthood in the Church Age have eternal life at the moment they believe in Christ — not only eternal life but indestructible life. (1 John 5:11-12)
“Hence also He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
This verse divides the sacrificial ministry of Christ on the Cross and the intercessory ministry of Christ at the right hand of the Father. Both are priestly functions but both functions are divided by resurrection. The Resurrection is the key to the perpetuation of the priesthood of our Lord, just as the Resurrection is the key to the perpetuation of our priesthood.
We have the two major functions of our high priest. Once again we should remember that we in this dispensation, as believers, are members of the royal family of God. The family of God began when
Adam believed in the Lord and it continues down to the end of time. But there is only one royal family: believers of the Church Age. We have been entered into union with Christ by the baptism of the Spirit, we are indwelt by the Spirit as the sign of royalty, and furthermore we are sealed by the Spirit as the security of royalty. Believers are appointed priests. We are in the order of Melchizedek, the royal priesthood. The Lord Jesus Christ is the high priest and we are called a kingdom of priests. (I Peter 2:9)
You are in the plan of God, and not only for time but forever. God’s plan calls for you to be a member of the royal family forever. God’s plan calls for you to have great blessings. You are here to be blessed by God with promotion, with success, with prosperity, and to share the happiness of God in time. In other words, God has designed in His plan the principle of “Heaven on earth.” This is your heritage at the moment of salvation. The heritage of regeneration is royalty and God is glorified by providing these blessings.
When it says that He saved us, this refers to the first high priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfilment of the types of the Old Testament. In order to save us He had to go to the Cross. While He was on the Cross bearing our sins, taking our place, He died spiritually. When salvation was completed on the Cross, Christ was still alive; He was still talking. He didn’t die physically for our sins, He died spiritually. The wages of sin is spiritual death. Spiritual death provides salvation; physical death means that His work was finished. At that point the work of salvation was finished. The brazen altar with its animal sacrifices being sacrificed had all been fulfilled by the Cross. All of the Levitical sacrifices and all of the sacrifices of believers since the beginning of time were images pointing to the Cross. The Cross is the reality; they have all been fulfilled. The first ministry of Our High Priest was completed.
His second priestly ministry is His intercession for us at the right hand of the Father. He is praying for you. And He is always living to pray for you, right now. Until the moment when we will see Him in our resurrection body, He will be praying for us constantly. There is nothing greater than dying for our sins and giving us eternal salvation. And, He is now praying for you. So He was sacrificed for you, now He prays for you constantly. Salvation was the pre-resurrection ministry of Christ whereas intercession is the post-resurrection ministry of Christ.
In concluding our passage we have come to the fact that the superiority of our High Priest has been well documented. The superiority of Jesus Christ is established on the basis of the uniqueness of our High Priest. He has been demonstrated as superior from the fact that He was authorized a royal high priest forever in eternity past in contrast to the Levitical priesthood which was temporary and has been deactivated. As a royal high priest He has established a royalty which is very believer in the Church Age. You are a member of the Royal Family of God forever. Therefore He is unique in every possible way and we share in His uniqueness as royal priests.
“For it is fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; Who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest forever, He is our Savior forever, He is royalty forever, and we are members of His royal family forever. Therefore, everything must focus on Who and what Jesus Christ is.
Anyone who is unique must be presented in such categories as to emphasize uniqueness. The words which are found in this verse are technical theological classifications to make us understand the uniqueness of the Person of Jesus Christ.
A high priest is a reference to the previous verse where physical death would not terminate the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He continues to function as our High Priest even after His physical death. He is different from any high priest who ever lived before Him. Since we are royal priests, it is fitting that we have a royal high priest.
His uniqueness is given in certain categorical terms: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens. Holy means to be separated unto God. In other words, it means to be completely separated by following the plan of the Father to the end, which He did. He never did anything that was not pleasing to God. Innocent means totally free from evil, pure, impeccable. Undefiled means completely moral by the application of divine viewpoint thinking. Separated from sinners means Jesus Christ in His humanity was impeccable (sinless). Exalted above the heavens means that there has never been nor will there ever be a Person like the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we can clearly see His uniqueness.
The Levitical priesthood had to offer daily sacrifices for themselves. They offered many sacrifices for the sins of others as well. The believers to whom Hebrews was written were being asked to picture in their minds a Levitical high priest offering up animal sacrifices for himself and for the people. This meant that the Levitical high priest could properly function on behalf of others if he was in fellowship. This procedure was then contrasted with what Christ did on the Cross. He did in three hours that which was pictured in all of the sacrifices offered by the Levitical high priests.
God appointed a High Priest Who was made perfect (without a sin nature), Jesus Christ. The Levitical priesthood could make nothing perfect; it could only foreshadow what would happen in the future on the Cross. The Levitical priesthood came first in history, while the fulfillment of the divine decree regarding the royal priesthood of Christ came afterwards. And, since the appointment of Jesus Christ as a royal priest forever was given as an oath (decree) by God, it is a superior priesthood of which we are a part.