Add parallel Print Page Options

The Priestly Family of Melchizedek

Melchizedek was both king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He was the one who went out and gave Abraham his blessing, when Abraham returned from killing the kings. Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he had.

The meaning of the name Melchizedek is “King of Justice.” But since Salem means “peace,” he is also “King of Peace.” We are not told that he had a father or mother or ancestors or beginning or end. He is like the Son of God and will be a priest forever.[a]

Notice how great Melchizedek is! Our famous ancestor Abraham gave him a tenth of what he had taken from his enemies. The Law teaches that even Abraham’s descendants must give a tenth of what they possess. And they are to give this to their own relatives, who are the descendants of Levi and are priests. Although Melchizedek wasn’t a descendant of Levi, Abraham gave him a tenth of what he had. Then Melchizedek blessed Abraham, who had been given God’s promise. Everyone agrees that a person who gives a blessing is greater than the one who receives the blessing.

Priests are given a tenth of what people earn. But all priests die, except Melchizedek, and the Scriptures teach that he is alive. Levi’s descendants are now the ones who receive a tenth from people. We could even say that when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth, Levi also gave him a tenth. 10 This is because Levi was born later into the family of Abraham, who gave a tenth to Melchizedek.

11 Even though the Law of Moses says that the priests must be descendants of Levi, those priests cannot make anyone perfect. So there needs to be a priest like Melchizedek, rather than one from the priestly family of Aaron.[b] 12 And when the rules for selecting a priest are changed, the Law must also be changed.

13 The person we are talking about is our Lord, who came from a tribe that had never had anyone to serve as a priest at the altar. 14 Everyone knows he came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never said that priests would come from that tribe.

15 All of this becomes clearer, when someone who is like Melchizedek is appointed to be a priest. 16 That person wasn’t appointed because of his ancestors, but because his life can never end. 17 The Scriptures say about him,

“You are a priest forever,
    just like Melchizedek.”

18 In this way a weak and useless command was put aside, 19 because the Law cannot make anything perfect. At the same time, we are given a much better hope, and it can bring us close to God.

20-21 God himself made a promise when this priest was appointed. But he did not make a promise like this when the other priests were appointed. The promise he made is,

“I, the Lord, promise that you
    will be a priest forever!
And I will never
    change my mind!”

22 This means that Jesus guarantees us a better agreement with God. 23 There have been a lot of other priests, and all of them have died. 24 But Jesus will never die, and so he will be a priest forever! 25 He is forever able to save[c] the people he leads to God, because he always lives to speak to God for them.

26 Jesus is the high priest we need. He is holy and innocent and faultless, and not at all like us sinners. Jesus is honored above all beings in heaven, 27 and he is better than any other high priest. Jesus doesn’t need to offer sacrifices each day for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He offered a sacrifice once for all, when he gave himself. 28 The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses. But God’s promise, which came later than the Law, appoints his Son. And he is the perfect high priest forever.

A Better Promise

What I mean is that we have a high priest who sits at the right side[d] of God’s great throne in heaven. He also serves as the priest in the most holy place[e] inside the real tent there in heaven. This tent of worship was set up by the Lord, not by humans.

Since all priests must offer gifts and sacrifices, Christ also needed to have something to offer. If he were here on earth, he would not be a priest at all, because here the Law appoints other priests to offer sacrifices. But the tent where they serve is just a copy and a shadow of the real one in heaven. Before Moses made the tent, he was told, “Be sure to make it exactly like the pattern you were shown on the mountain!” Now Christ has been appointed to serve as a priest in a much better way, and he has given us much assurance of a better agreement.

If the first agreement with God had been all right, there would not have been any need for another one. But the Lord found fault with it and said,

“I tell you the time will come,
when I will make
    a new agreement
with the people of Israel
    and the people of Judah.
It won’t be like the agreement
that I made
    with their ancestors,
when I took them by the hand
    and led them out of Egypt.
They broke their agreement
    with me,
and I stopped caring
    about them!

10 “But now I tell the people
of Israel
    this is my new agreement:
‘The time will come
    when I, the Lord,
will write my laws
    on their minds and hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be
    my people.
11 Not one of them
will have to teach another
    to know me, their Lord.'

“All of them will know me,
    no matter who they are.
12 I will treat them with kindness,
even though they are wicked.
    I will forget their sins.”

13 When the Lord talks about a new agreement, he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear.

The Tent in Heaven

The first promise that was made included rules for worship and a tent for worship here on earth. The first part of the tent was called the holy place, and a lampstand, a table, and the sacred loaves of bread were kept there.

Behind the curtain was the most holy place. The gold altar that was used for burning incense was in this holy place. The gold-covered sacred chest was also there, and inside it were three things. First, there was a gold jar filled with manna.[f] Then there was Aaron’s walking stick that sprouted.[g] Finally, there were the flat stones with the Ten Commandments written on them. On top of the chest were the glorious creatures with wings[h] opened out above the place of mercy.[i]

Now isn’t the time to go into detail about these things. But this is how everything was when the priests went each day into the first part of the tent to do their duties. However, only the high priest could go into the second part of the tent, and he went in only once a year. Each time he carried blood to offer for his sins and for any sins that the people had committed without meaning to.

All of this is the Holy Spirit’s way of saying that no one could enter the most holy place while the tent was still the place of worship. This also has a meaning for today. It shows that we cannot make our consciences clear by offering gifts and sacrifices. 10 These rules are merely about such things as eating and drinking and ceremonies for washing ourselves. And rules about physical things will last only until the time comes to change them for something better.

11 Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here.[j] He also went into a much better tent that wasn’t made by humans and that doesn’t belong to this world. 12 Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls.

13 According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. 14 But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That’s why his blood is much more powerful and makes our[k] consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death.

15 Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God’s eternal blessings! 16 In fact, making an agreement of this kind is like writing a will. This is because the one who makes the will must die before it is of any use. 17 In other words, a will doesn’t go into effect as long as the one who made it is still alive.

18 Blood was also used[l] to put the first agreement into effect. 19 Moses told the people all that the Law said they must do. Then he used red wool and a hyssop plant to sprinkle the people and the book of the Law with the blood of bulls and goats[m] and with water. 20 He told the people, “With this blood God makes his agreement with you.” 21 Moses also sprinkled blood on the tent and on everything else that was used in worship. 22 The Law says that almost everything must be sprinkled with blood, and no sins can be forgiven unless blood is offered.

Christ’s Great Sacrifice

23 These things are only copies of what is in heaven, and so they had to be made holy by these ceremonies. But the real things in heaven must be made holy by something better. 24 This is why Christ did not go into a tent that had been made by humans and was only a copy of the real one. Instead, he went into heaven and is now there with God to help us.

25 Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn’t like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal. 26 If he had offered himself every year, he would have suffered many times since the creation of the world. But instead, near the end of time he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin.

27 We die only once, and then we are judged. 28 So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when he comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for him.

10 The Law of Moses is like a shadow of the good things to come. This shadow isn’t the good things themselves, because it cannot free people from sin by the sacrifices that are offered year after year. If there were worshipers who already have their sins washed away and their consciences made clear, there would not be any need to go on offering sacrifices. 3-4 But the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. It only reminds people of their sins from one year to the next.

When Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“Sacrifices and offerings
    are not what you want,
but you have given me
    my body.
No, you are not pleased
with animal sacrifices
    and offerings for sin.”

Then Christ said,

“And so, my God,
    I have come to do
what you want,
    as the Scriptures say.”

The Law teaches that offerings and sacrifices must be made because of sin. But why did Christ mention these things and say that God did not want them? Well, it was to do away with offerings and sacrifices and to replace them. That is what he meant by saying to God, “I have come to do what you want.” 10 So we are made holy because Christ obeyed God and offered himself once for all.

11 The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But Christ offered himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now he is sitting at God’s right side,[n] 13 and he will stay there until his enemies are put under his power. 14 By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God.

15 The Holy Spirit also speaks of this by telling us that the Lord said,

16 “When the time comes,
I will make an agreement
    with them.
I will write my laws
    on their minds and hearts.
17 Then I will forget
    about their sins
and no longer remember
    their evil deeds.”

18 When sins are forgiven, there is no more need to offer sacrifices.

Encouragement and Warning

19 My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place 20 by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself.

21 We have a great high priest who is in charge of God’s house. 22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.

26 No sacrifices can be made for people who decide to sin after they find out about the truth. 27 They are God’s enemies, and all they can look forward to is a terrible judgment and a furious fire. 28 If two or more witnesses accused someone of breaking the Law of Moses, that person could be put to death. 29 But it is much worse to dishonor God’s Son and to disgrace the blood of the promise that made us holy. And it is just as bad to insult the Holy Spirit, who shows us mercy. 30 We know that God has said he will punish and take revenge. We also know that the Scriptures say the Lord will judge his people. 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

32 Don’t forget all the hard times you went through when you first received the light. 33 Sometimes you were abused and mistreated in public, and at other times you shared in the sufferings of others. 34 You were kind to people in jail. And you gladly let your possessions be taken away, because you knew you had something better, something that would last forever.

35 Keep on being brave! It will bring you great rewards. 36 Learn to be patient, so that you will please God and be given what he has promised. 37 As the Scriptures say,

“God is coming soon!
    It won’t be very long.
38 The people God accepts
will live
because
    of their faith.[o]
But he isn’t pleased
with anyone
    who turns back.”

39 We are not like those people who turn back and get destroyed. We will keep on having faith until we are saved.

Footnotes

  1. 7.3 will be a priest forever: See the note at 5.6.
  2. 7.11 descendants of Levi. . . from the priestly family of Aaron: Levi was the ancestor of the tribe from which priests and their helpers (called “Levites”) were chosen. Aaron was the first high priest.
  3. 7.25 forever able to save: Or “able to save forever.”
  4. 8.1 right side: See the note at 1.3.
  5. 8.2 most holy place: See the note at 6.19.
  6. 9.4 manna: When the people of Israel were wandering through the desert, the Lord provided them with food that could be made into thin wafers. This food was called manna, which in Hebrew means “What is it?”
  7. 9.4 Aaron’s walking stick that sprouted: According to Numbers 17.1-11, Aaron’s walking stick sprouted and produced almonds to show that the Lord was pleased with him and Moses.
  8. 9.5 glorious creatures with wings: Two of these creatures (called “cherubim” in Hebrew and Greek) with outspread wings were on top of the sacred chest and were symbols of God’s throne.
  9. 9.5 place of mercy: The lid of the sacred chest, which was thought to be God’s throne on earth.
  10. 9.11 that are now here: Some manuscripts have “that were coming.”
  11. 9.14 our: Some manuscripts have “your,” and others have “their.”
  12. 9.18 Blood was also used: Or “There also had to be a death.”
  13. 9.19 blood of bulls and goats: Some manuscripts do not have “and goats.”
  14. 10.12 right side: See the note at 1.3.
  15. 10.38 The people God accepts will live because of their faith: Or “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.”

Bible Gateway Recommends