The Priestly Order of Melchizedek
7 1 Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the Highest God. He met Abraham, who was returning from "the royal massacre," and gave him his blessing. 2 Abraham in turn gave him a tenth of the spoils. "Melchizedek" means "King of Righteousness." "Salem" means "Peace." So, he is also "King of Peace." 3 Melchizedek towers out of the past - without record of family ties, no account of beginning or end. In this way he is like the Son of God, one huge priestly presence dominating the landscape always. 4 You realize just how great Melchizedek is when you see that Father Abraham gave him a tenth of the captured treasure. 5 Priests descended from Levi are commanded by law to collect tithes from the people, even though they are all more or less equals, priests and people, having a common father in Abraham. 6 But this man, a complete outsider, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him, the one to whom the promises had been given. 7 In acts of blessing, the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 Or look at it this way: We pay our tithes to priests who die, but Abraham paid tithes to a priest who, the Scripture says, "lives." 9 Ultimately you could even say that since Levi descended from Abraham, who paid tithes to Melchizedek, 10 when we pay tithes to the priestly tribe of Levi they end up with Melchizedek.
11 If the priesthood of Levi and Aaron, which provided the framework for the giving of the law, could really make people perfect, there wouldn't have been need for a new priesthood like that of Melchizedek. 12 But since it didn't get the job done, there was a change of priesthood, which brought with it a radical new kind of law. 13 There is no way of understanding this in terms of the old Levitical priesthood, 14 which is why there is nothing in Jesus' family tree connecting him with that priestly line. 15 But the Melchizedek story provides a perfect analogy: Jesus, a priest like Melchizedek, 16 not by genealogical descent but by the sheer force of resurrection life - he lives! - 17 "priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek." 18 The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked out the way it was supposed to, was set aside; 19 the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way - Jesus! - a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place. 20 The old priesthood of Aaron perpetuated itself automatically, father to son, without explicit confirmation by God. 21 But then God intervened and called this new, permanent priesthood into being with an added promise: God gave his word; he won't take it back: "You're the permanent priest." 22 This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God - one that really works! A new covenant. 23 Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. 24 But Jesus' priesthood is permanent. He's there from now to eternity 25 to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them. 26 So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God's presence in heaven itself. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he doesn't have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He's done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. 28 The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect.
The Mediator of a New Covenant
8 1 In essence, we have just such a high priest: authoritative right alongside God, 2 conducting worship in the one true sanctuary built by God. 3 The assigned task of a high priest is to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and it's no different with the priesthood of Jesus. 4 If he were limited to earth, he wouldn't even be a priest. We wouldn't need him since there are plenty of priests who offer the gifts designated in the law. 5 These priests provide only a hint of what goes on in the true sanctuary of heaven, which Moses caught a glimpse of as he was about to set up the tent-shrine. It was then that God said, "Be careful to do it exactly as you saw it on the Mountain."
6 But Jesus' priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he's working from a far better plan. 7 If the first plan - the old covenant - had worked out, a second wouldn't have been needed. 8 But we know the first was found wanting, because God said, Heads up! The days are coming when I'll set up a new plan for dealing with Israel and Judah. 9 I'll throw out the old plan I set up with their ancestors when I led them by the hand out of Egypt. They didn't keep their part of the bargain, so I looked away and let it go. 10 This new plan I'm making with Israel isn't going to be written on paper, isn't going to be chiseled in stone; This time I'm writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I'll be their God, they'll be my people. 11 They won't go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons. They'll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. 12 They'll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean. 13 By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.
9 1 That first plan contained directions for worship, and a specially designed place of worship. 2 A large outer tent was set up. The lampstand, the table, and "the bread of presence" were placed in it. This was called "the Holy Place." 3 Then a curtain was stretched, and behind it a smaller, inside tent set up. This was called "the Holy of Holies." 4 In it were placed the gold incense altar and the gold-covered ark of the covenant containing the gold urn of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, the covenant tablets, 5 and the angel-wing-shadowed mercy seat. But we don't have time to comment on these now. 6 After this was set up, the priests went about their duties in the large tent. 7 Only the high priest entered the smaller, inside tent, and then only once a year, offering a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the people's accumulated sins.
8 This was the Holy Spirit's way of showing with a visible parable that as long as the large tent stands, people can't just walk in on God. 9 Under this system, the gifts and sacrifices can't really get to the heart of the matter, can't assuage the conscience of the people, 10 but are limited to matters of ritual and behavior. It's essentially a temporary arrangement until a complete overhaul could be made. 11 But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven's "tent" - the true Holy Place - once and for all. 12 He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. 13 If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, 14 think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out.
15 Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God. 16 Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus' death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way. 17 18 Even the first plan required a death to set it in motion. 19 After Moses had read out all the terms of the plan of the law - God's "will" - he took the blood of sacrificed animals and, in a solemn ritual, sprinkled the document and the people who were its beneficiaries. 20 And then he attested its validity with the words, "This is the blood of the covenant commanded by God." 21 He did the same thing with the place of worship and its furniture. 22 Moses said to the people, "This is the blood of the covenant God has established with you." Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That's why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins.
Sin Put Away by Christ's Sacrifice
23 That accounts for the prominence of blood and death in all these secondary practices that point to the realities of heaven. It also accounts for why, when the real thing takes place, these animal sacrifices aren't needed anymore, having served their purpose. 24 For Christ didn't enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. 25 He doesn't do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; 26 if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin. 27 Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. 28 Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.
10 1 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old "law plan" wasn't complete in itself, it couldn't complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. 2 If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. 3 But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. 4 The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can't get rid of sin. 5 That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don't want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you've prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. 6 It's not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite.
7 So I said, "I'm here to do it your way, O God, the way it's described in your Book." 8 When he said, "You don't want sacrifices and offerings," he was referring to practices according to the old plan. 9 When he added, "I'm here to do it your way," he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan - 10 God's way - by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. 11 Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. 12 As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God 13 and waited for his enemies to cave in. 14 It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. 15 The Holy Spirit confirms this: 16 This new plan I'm making with Israel isn't going to be written on paper, isn't going to be chiseled in stone; This time "I'm writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts." 17 He concludes, I'll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins. 18 Once sins are taken care of for good, there's no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.
Let Us Draw Near and Hold Fast
19 So, friends, we can now - without hesitation - walk right up to God, into "the Holy Place." 20 Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. 21 The "curtain" into God's presence is his body. 22 So let's do it - full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. 23 Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24 Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 26 If we give up and turn our backs on all we've learned, all we've been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ's sacrifice 27 and are left on our own to face the Judgment - and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! 28 If the penalty for breaking the law of Moses is physical death, 29 what do you think will happen if you turn on God's Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? 30 This is no light matter. God has warned us that he'll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: "Vengeance is mine, and I won't overlook a thing," and, "God will judge his people." 31 Nobody's getting by with anything, believe me. 32 Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! 33 Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse - some days it was you, other days your friends. 34 If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn't touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. 35 So don't throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It's still a sure thing! 36 But you need to stick it out, staying with God's plan so you'll be there for the promised completion. 37 It won't be long now, he's on the way; he'll show up most any minute. 38 But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust; if he cuts and runs, I won't be very happy. 39 But we're not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We'll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.