The Path to the Throne of God

 

13. THE PRIEST AND HIS GARMENTS


Where the Priests Officiated. During the year, the high priest had duties to perform not only in the court but in the holy place, and on the last day of the year - the day of atonement - his duties led him into the most holy place. Into this apartment he went alone to perform the special services of that day. Heb. 9:7; Lev. 16:17. The common priests conducted their service in the court and in the holy place only. Heb. 9:6. They never entered the most holy place. The Levites, though divinely set apart to assist the priests, never entered the sanctuary itself, except when the camp was moved from place to place, and even then only after all the furniture had been covered. Num 3:6,9; 4:15,20-33. At other times, their service was confined to the court. An ordinary Israelite had access only to the court when he brought his sacrifice for sin. PP 353. During His life on earth, Christ Himself never entered either the holy place or the most holy place, because His work as priest did not begin until His sacrificial work in the court of earth was finished. Then He began His ministry in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary - in "heaven itself." Heb. 9:12, 24.


The Garments of the Common Priest. The garments of priest and high priest differed considerably because they were symbolic of the different duties performed. But all were "holy garments;" they were "for glory and for beauty." Ex. 28:2, 40, They were "of fine linen of woven work." Ex. 39:27. They were whole (that is, woven in one piece) and without blemish;" DA 709; that is, no garment worn was to have a rent or be unclean. Only thus could they represent the pure unblemished character of the heavenly Priest, Jesus Christ their great Antitype. The making of these garments was a sacred task, entrusted only to the "wise-hearted" whom God had "filled with the spirit of wisdom." Ex. 28:3

"For Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets." These composed their outer garments. The under garment, or "linen breeches," extended "from the loins even unto the thighs." Ex. 28: 40,42. The girdle was "of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, of needlework." Ex. 39 :29. The coat corresponded to the plain simple coat of Jesus, which was "without seam, woven from the top throughout, " John 19 :23, 27, - the seamless coat for which, fulfilling prophecy, Ps. 22:18, the heathen soldiers cast lots. The girdle was used to bind up the coat for greater freedom in service. It was uniformly the emblem of readiness for work. Jesus says, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; " Luke 12:35, that is, be always prepared for any service that God requires of you, and be diligent about it. Of Christ it is said, "Righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins." Isa. 11:5.

At the burning bush, God said to Moses, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place wherein thou standest is holy ground." Ex. 3:5. So, as the priests walked on the holy ground of the sanctuary, ministering in the tabernacle and in the court, they wore no shoes. The very ground on which the sanctuary was placed was selected by God, and there His presence was manifested. It was holy ground.


Spiritual Lessons from These Garments. "Everything connected with the apparel and deportment of the priests was to be such as to impress the beholder with the sense of the holiness of God, the sacredness of His worship, and the purity required of those who came into His presence." PP 351. The fine white linen of which these simple beautiful garments were made, is a symbol of righteousness. Rev. 19:8. It represented the beauty of the character of Christ, of whom the priests were a type. Does it not also indicate that the garments of the gospel minister - the earthly representative of Christ - should be spotlessly immaculate, without blemish, and of simple pattern?

The material and simplicity of the priests' garments betokened also the beauty of character of every Christian who is an ambassador for Christ. Simple, modest garments are an index to the "hidden man of the heart," I Peter 3:3,4, whose adorning is purity, truth, sincerity, unselfishness, and other graces of the spirit. These are "holy garments" "for glory and for beauty," beauty which is

immortal. The outward adorning of "broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array" 1 Tim. 2:9, belongs to “Babylon, the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” Rev. 17:4,5. They indicate a lack of the true ornaments of heart and life. "When Adam and Eve were created, they were clothed with a covering of light and glory such as the angels wear." SR 21. This beautiful soft "robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence." COL 310-311. The redeemed will be "arrayed in fine linen clean and white . . . which is the righteousness of saints." Rev. 19:8.

As the priests' garments were woven in one piece, so Christ’s life was riveted to one great purpose, from which nothing ever turned Him aside. Likewise, the Christian's experience must be constant as he goes steadily forward, having as his motto, "This one thing I do." Phil 3:13. Faith in Christ, not emotions, must hold us true to duty and loyal to God's everlasting truth. Emotions are unstable, up and down, here and there. Guided by them, we shall be "like a waive of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." James 1:6.

As the inner linen garment was "to cover their nakedness" Ex. 28:42, so to those who are preparing for His coming, Christ says, "I counsel thee to buy of Me . . . white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." Rev. 3:18, Spiritual nakedness implies a departure from loyalty to God, which is spiritual whoredom.


The Penalty of Disobedience. The wearing of these holy garments by the priests "when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation (the holy place), or when they come near unto the altar to minister," was a very definite requirement of God, and any failure on the part of a priest to obey meant death. Ex. 28:43,

Why so severe a penalty? Because in that case it would be impossible for the priest to bear the iniquity of the children of Israel, which as Christ's representative was his portion. Num. 18:1. Under such circumstances, "they bear not iniquity and die." They die because they misrepresent Jesus Christ their Antitype. The result to the unfaithful Christian is the same, for if the ambassador for Christ is not clothed with His righteousness, he cannot turn others from their iniquity, but he will lead them astray. As a result, he may cause their eternal ruin, and he may lose his own soul.


The Priesthood a Birthright. From the earliest days among the patriarchs, the priesthood was the birthright of the eldest son. When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, he forfeited the sacred privilege of the priesthood. In the Levitical priesthood, Aaron, the firstborn of Amram and Jochebed, both of the tribe of Levi, Ex. 6:19,20, was chosen by God to be high priest. "The priest- hood was established to represent the mediatorial character and work of Christ," DA 165, who is the Firstborn of every creature." Col. 1:15.

The Ministry of the Priests. The earthly priests were ordained to offer sacrifices as mediators between God and man. The high priest tinder God acted not only as intercessor from day to day throughout the year, but he also judged Israel. This God indicated by the Urim and Thummim which rendered the breastplate that he wore a "breastplate of judgment." Ex. 28:29,30. The high priest's work as judge was manifest especially on the day of Atonement, when God through him judged who were to be "cut off" from Israel - those who had not afflicted their soul or had not observed the other requirements of God for the day, Lev. 23:27-29, - and those who were accounted worthy to be retained as God's people.

The priests were also teachers in Israel. Ed. 78. Under God, they also acted as rulers of the nation. Their ministry as rulers continued to the time of Samuel, when they demanded a king that they might be “like all the nations.” 1 Sam. 8:4,5,19,20.


Christ as Antitype of the Priests. On the cross Christ the Lamb of God John 1:29, offered Himself to take away the sin of the world - Himself the Priest, Himself the sacrifice. At His ascension, He was anointed High Priest in the capacity of Intercessor. All the angels assist in this work for they are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of

salvation." Heb. 1:14. The Holy Spirit also cooperates, earnestly pleading with fa Hen man. Rom. 8:26.

Since His ascension, Christ continues Priest "forever" Heb. 6:20, but not always in the same capacity. The Greek word for "forever" here used is the same Greek word as is used in Heb. 7 :17, 24, 25, 28. Also Heb. 5:6 and wherever this word occurs it refers to Christ, and means throughout eternity. As an the day of atonement, the typical day of Judgment, the earthly high priest acted as judge of Israel, so during the real day of Judgment, Christ, our heavenly High Priest, acts in the capacity of Judge, judging first the "house of God." John 5:22; 1. Peter 4:17. When this judgment, called the Investigative Judgment because it is simply to investigate the cases, is finished probation for the human family closes, and His work as Intercessor ends, for mercy is no longer extended to sinners. Then Christ lays off "His priestly attire" and clothes Himself with His most kingly robes." EW 281. At this time He Comes as a Bridegroom to receive His bride, the redeemed. How appropriate for this crowning event of His life of sacrifice He should lay aside His priestly garments and be attired in His most kingly robes. The fact that He lays off His priestly attire does not indicate that He is no longer a Priest for He is a Priest "forever." Being a Priest forever, He continues as Priest-Judge for one thousand years, during which time the wicked are judged. In this Judgment the redeemed are associated, "They shall be priests of God and of Christ a thousand years." Rev. 20:6; Dan. 7:22. After the thousand years He executes the Judgment . Rev. 20:7-13. He still continues as priest but not judge, for the Judgment - investigative and executive - is forever past.

At His ascension, Christ was not only anointed High Priest but He was declared King and crowned the King of Glory. Ps.24:7-10; Heb. 2:9. At that time, He was seated “at the right hand of God,” and ever afterward He "shares the Father's throne." Mark 16:19; DA 832. He is then a Priest-King. As King, He is "the King Eternal" or as Moffatt puts it "The King of Eternity." I Tim. 1:17. As such He will be the Ruler of redeemed Israel.

As Priest, what will be His ministry in the new earth? As antitype of the earthly priests, who were the teachers of Israel, so Christ throughout eternity serves as Master Teacher in the School of the Hereafter. Even while on this earth, He was recognized by learned and by rich as 'Master" Teacher, Luke 10:25; Mark 10:17, Moffatt; also by Roman officials who declared, "Never man spake like this man." John 7:46. And at the close of His famous sermon on the Mount given especially for the disciples, it is written, "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Matt. 5:1,2; 7:28,29.

Thus, as Intercessor, as Judge, as King, and as Master Teacher, our heavenly High Priest, is a complete Antitype of the earthly priests. (See Diagram, the Sanctuaries and Their Priesthood.)


Three Orders of Priests. From the time sin entered this world, three distinct orders of priests are brought to view in the Scriptures.

First: in the patriarchal period, from Adam to Jacob, every patriarch was the priest of his own household. This may be called the Patriarchal order of priests. It continued until, and at least to some extent during, the bondage of Israel in Egypt. Throughout this period, the family altar was the only sanctuary. Before the flood this altar was at the gate of Eden, PP 62, where the Shekinah glory abode, and angels were stationed "to keep the way of the tree of life." Gen. 3:24. Later, the members of each household met for morning and evening worship and for the offering of the sacrifice that expressed their faith in the coming Redeemer.

Second: at the time of their deliverance from Egypt, after Israel had reached Sinai, the Lord chose the tribe of Levi for the service of the sanctuary which was constructed at that lime, and He set apart Aaron of the tribe of Levi to be the high priest. Thus the Aaronic, or Levitical, order of priests was established. This signal favor was conferred upon the tribe of Levi because of their loyalty to God when Israel apostatized in the worship of the golden calf. Ex 32:26. The Levitical order, or the Aaronic priesthood, extended to the cross, and then came to an end. From that time, there has been no divinely appointed order of earthly priests. The earthly priesthood ended at the cross.

Third: at the ascension of Christ the priesthood was transferred to the heavenly sanctuary, Then Christ was anointed High Priest, and the priesthood of Christ began.


The "Order" of Melchizedek. At His ascension, Christ was made a Priest forever "after the order of Melchizedek." Heb. 6:20. This translation has led some to suppose that Melchizedek was the name of another order, or series, of priests. But the Bible nowhere records a series of earthly priests before the cross other than the Patriarchal and the Levitical. Moffatt translates this expression found in Hebrews 5,6, and 7, "with the rank of Melchizedek." Hebrews 7:15 reads, "After the similitude of Melchizedek." These texts seem to give the correct idea.


Melchizedek and Abraham. Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in the Bible: Genesis 14:18-20, Psalms 110:4, and Hebrews 5,6, and 7. He was "king of Salem. . . and priest of the Most High God" living in the area ,,,here Abraham sojourned. Gen. 14:18-20. This was more than four hundred years before the Levitical priesthood was established. He was, therefore, not of the tribe of Levi; nor was he one of the patriarchs. Yet he was a worshiper of the true God. It seems that Abraham was acquainted with Melchizedek and trusted in his righteousness, accepting his kind hospitality as expressed in the bread and wine that Melchizedek brought forth for the refreshment of his army. PP 136. Abraham manifested confidence in Melchizedek's position as “priest of the Most High God” by paying tithe to him. In bestowing the benediction upon Abraham, Heb. 7:6,7. Melchizedek acknowledged that Jehovah was the source of Abraham’s strength and of his victory. Gen. 14:19,20.


Christ and Melchizedek. "It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah," though we would naturally expect Him to come out of Levi whom He Himself had chosen for the priesthood. "And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another Priest (Christ) who is made . . . a Priest forever after the order (with the rank - Moffatt) of Melchizedek." Heb. 7:14-17, Emphasis supplied.

Melchizedek was made priest "like unto the Son of God" - (resembling God's Son: Moffatt.) He abideth a priest continually," or permanently, as Moffatt has it; that is without a successor. Heb 7:3. Christ also had no successor; He was made High Priest "after the power of an endless life," or "forever," He was made High Priest with the rank of Melchizedek, that is, as Melchizedek was both priest and king, so also was Christ. Thus Melchizedek was a type of Christ.


After the Similitude of Melchizedek. It is not the service of Christ that is after the similitude of Melchizedek (of whose service there is no record,) but of Melchizedek as priest and king, The service of Christ is fully typified in the service of the Levitical priesthood as illustrated in the earthly sanctuary. In what particulars, then, was Christ similar to Melchizedek?

1. In rank. Melchizedek was "king of Salem" (afterward Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God." Gen. 14:18. His name by interpretation is "king of righteousness, and after that the king of Salem, which is king of peace." Heb. 7:1,2. Likewise, Christ is both King and Priest - Priest of the Most High God, and "The Prince of Peace." Isa. 9:6. He Is the King of Righteousness with His throne finally in the New Jerusalem. Rev. 21:22.

2. Melchizedek was made priest as he as made king - not by inheritance, as were the Levitical priests, but by appointment. Christ also was made Priest, not because His father was priest; but by appointment - on the oath of God. Heb. 7:20,21; Ps. 110:4. This was the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham: "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," Gen. 12:3, - the promise of the Redeemer, who would be forever both Priest and King. Thus Christ as our Redeemer is assured to us "by two immutable things" - God's promise and His oath. Heb. 6:12,17,18 '

3. Melchizedek was not one of the patriarchs; he was not of the Patriarchal order of priests, nor was he a Levite, of the Levitical order. Likewise, Christ was not of either of these orders of priests. "Our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Heb. 7:14,15.

4. Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without descent," Heb. 7:3, in the priesthood. This expression, says Smith's Bible Dictionary, is a "Greek idiom," indicating one whose parentage was humble or unknown. There is no record of his genealogy, while a very exact record of the genealogy of both the Patriarchal and Levitical priests was kept, and finally preserved in the Bible. Like Melchizedek, Christ was without priestly parentage or pedigree.

5, Melchizedek's priesthood had "neither beginning of days nor end of life.' This also, says Smith, is a "Greek idiom," indicating one whose "days" - time of discharging his function as priest - was unrecorded and unknown by humanity. Christ is a Priest "forever with the rank of Melchizedek; that is, He is both Priest and King. Moffatt, Heb. 2:3; Ps. 110:4. His days, the time of discharging His function as Priest are known and recorded in the Bible. He was made Priest after the power of an endless life, a time no man can comprehend. Heb. 7:15-17.

6. Both Patriarchal and Levitical priests were changeable; that is, death prevented But them from continuing; therefore, their priesthood passed by inheritance from father to son. But Melchizedek did not belong to a succession of priests - his priesthood did not pass to a successor, nor did he receive it by inheritance - and in that sense it was unchangeable. Likewise, Christ, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood." Heb, 7:24. “He holds His priesthood without any successor, since He continues forever, or, permanently.” Moffatt's translation of Heb. 7:3,23,24.

7. Melchizedek was an individual priest recognized by God. He was a Canaanite, an ordinary human being living at Salem. But he was extraordinary in that, in spite of his Canaanitish pedigree and environment, (he was near neighbor of the king of Sodom, Gen. 14:17,18) yet he was righteous. Christ was taken from among men, Heb. 5:1, from among sinners. He was "made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.” Heb. 2:17. Until He had partaken of human nature, until He had been tempted in all points like as we are, and in a most unfavourable environment had overcome and was ‘without sin,’ He could not be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” Heb. 4:15, nor could He “succor” them that are tempted.” Heb. 2:18; 4:15. How comforting and how wonderful is the thought that Christ identifies Himself with anyone – even a Canaanite – who serves God to the best of his knowledge and ability in righteousness and peace!


The Redeemed a “Royal Priesthood.” Of the redeemed, John says they will be associated with Christ in His priestly work – “Priests of God and of Christ a thousand years.” Rev. 1:6; 20:6. Some of these have already entered upon their mission. They are that multitude who “came out of their graves after His resurrection” Matt. 27:50-53; Eph. 4:8, margin, and ascended with Him as the first fruits of His redemption. Rev. 4:4; 5:8-10. Finally, all the redeemed, those who have part in “the first resurrection…shall be priests of God and of Christ.” Rev.20:6. Peter calls these a “royal priesthood.” I Peter 2:9. To be one with Christ in the priesthood will indeed be a great honor. As “no man taketh this honor unto himself…so also Christ was glorified by the Father, John 17:4,5,24, and the redeemed, His sons and associate priests, when arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, Rev. 19:8, will He glorify. John 17:22; 17:23.


Preparation for the “Royal Priesthood.” Aaron was chosen by God to be the earthly high priest, not only because he was the firstborn, but by virtue of his blood relationship to Moses, who represented God, Ex. 4:16. So Christ was chosen by God to be the heavenly High Priest – chosen by God “that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee.” Heb 5:5. As Christ was chosen because of His relationship to God, so the redeemed, as “brothers” of Christ their “Elder Brother” Matt. 12:50, are chosen by God to be priests by virtue of their spiritual relationship to Christ. Rev. 20:6. In the Levitical priesthood, any stranger who could not prove his genealogy direct from Aaron, the high priest, was cast out of the priesthood, and was even subject to death. Ezra 2:62; Num. 3:10. Likewise, the Christian who cannot prove his blood relationship to Christ, the heavenly High Priest, can have no part in the “royal priesthood,” and will finally be cast out and suffer death.

We have the promise that the redeemed are to be “priests of God and of Christ.” Rev 20:6. Since the priesthood is still a birthright, on what grounds can we claim this promise? How do we get blood relationship to Christ? This is s spiritual relationship, which may be compared to the way in which we get our physical relationship. As the mother gives of her life blood, and traveils in pain that her child may be given the first birth, so Christ gave His life blood on Calvary that we may experience the second birth. We are the purchase of His blood, “bought with a price,” “redeemed

… with the precious blood of Christ.” I Cor. 6:20; I Peter 1:18, 19. It is this that opens to us the door into the family of God – that makes us brothers of Christ, Matt 12:50, and gives us blood relationship to Him. When those for whom Christ has spilled His precious blood that they may be born into His kingdom, regard iniquity in their hearts, He suffers anew the agony of the crucifixion and soul traveil . Heb. 6:6. Not until redemption is finished and all sin is eternally destroyed, not until He sees the fruit of the traveil of His soul, shall He be satisfied. Isa. 53:11. Then, by virtue of our spiritual blood relationship to Christ, we shall be eligible to a place in the royal priesthood.

How wonderful is this blood relationship to Christ - human and divine, earthly and heavenly, the mystery of godliness! Thus, like the earthly priests who were born into the priestly family, we must be born of water and of the Spirit into the family of God. Then we shall be partakers of the Father's nature, and His name, or character, will be in our foreheads. Ex. 28:36-38; Rev. 14:1. This is "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," the mark toward which we press for the prize. Phil. 3:14.


Footnote For further study on Melchizedek see “The Book of Hebrews” by M L Andreasen, pages 245 to 265; “The Atonement” by W H Branson, pages 43 to 45; “Smith’s Bible Dictionary”, article Melchizedek; and “Jameson, Faisset and Brown’s Commentary on Hebrews 7.”