(We are beginning a series of studies on the God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the sanctuary. We pray they will be a blessing to you. Editor)
In the manifestation of Christ the Saviour it is revealed that He must appear in the three offices of prophet, priest, and king.
Of Him as prophet it was written in the days of Moses: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18, 19) And this thought was continued in the succeeding scriptures until His coming.
Of Him as priest it was written in the days of David: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4) This thought was also continued in the Scriptures, not only until His coming, but after His coming.
Of Him as king it was written in the days of David: “Yet have I set [‘anointed,’ margin] my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6) And this thought, likewise, was continued in all the scriptures afterward unto His coming, after His coming, and unto the end of the Book.
Thus the Scriptures abundantly present Him in the three offices of prophet, priest, and king.
This threefold truth is generally recognized by all who have acquaintance with the Scriptures, but above this there is the truth which seems to be not so well known—that He is not all three of these at the same time. The three offices are successive. He is prophet first, then after that He is priest, and after that He is king.
He was “that Prophet” when He came into the world, as that “Teacher come from God,” the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, “full of grace and truth.” (Acts 3:19-23) But He was not then a priest, nor would He be a priest if He were even yet on earth, for it is written, “If He were on earth, He should not be a priest.” (Hebrews 8:4) But, having finished His work in His prophetic office on earth, and having ascended to heaven at the right hand of the throne of God, He is now and there our “great High Priest” who “ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 4:14; 7:25), as it is written: “He shall be a priest upon His [Father’s] throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:13)
As He was not that Priest when He was on earth as that Prophet, so now He is not that King when He is in heaven as that Priest. True, He is king in the sense and in the fact that He is upon His Father’s throne, and thus He is the kingly priest and the priestly king after the order of Melchizedek, who, though priest of the Most High God, was also King of Salem, which is King of peace. (He- brews 7:1, 2) But this is not the kingly office and throne that is referred to and that is contemplated in the prophecy and the promise of His specific office as king.
The kingly office of the promise and the prophecy is that He shall be King upon “the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32), in perpetuation of the kingdom of God upon this earth. This kingly office is the restoration and the perpetuation, in Him, of the diadem, the crown, and the throne of David, which was discontinued when, because of the profanity and wickedness of the king and the people of Judah and Israel, they were taken captive to Babylon, when it was declared: “And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.” (Ezekiel 21:25-27)
Thus and at that time the throne, the diadem, and the crown of the kingdom of David was discontinued “until He come whose right it is,” when it will be given Him. And He whose right it is, is only Christ, “the Son of David.” And this “coming” was not His first coming when He came in His humiliation, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; but it is His second coming, when He comes in His glory as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16), when His kingdom shall break in pieces and consume all the kingdoms of earth and shall occupy the whole earth and shall stand forever.
It is true that when He was born into the world, a babe in Bethlehem, He was born King and was then and has been ever since King by right. But it is equally true that this kingly office, diadem, crown, and throne of the prophecy and promise, He did not then take and has not yet taken and will not take until He comes again. Then it will be that He will take to Himself His great power upon this earth, and will reign fully and truly in all the splendor of His kingly office and glory. For in the Scripture it is portrayed that after “the judgment was set, and the books were opened,” one like the Son of man came to the Ancient of days, “and there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Then it is that He shall indeed take “the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:32, 33)
Thus it is plain that in the contemplation of the scripture, in the contemplation of the promise and the prophecy, as to His three offices of prophet, priest, and king, these offices are successive, and not all nor even any two of them at the same time. He came first as “that Prophet;” He is now that Priest, and will be that King when He comes again. He finished His work as “that Prophet” before He became that Priest; and He finishes His work as that Priest before He will become that King.
And as He was, and as He is, and as He is to be, so our consideration of Him must be.
That is to say: When He was in the world as that Prophet, that is what the people were then to consider Him; and, as concerning that time, that is what we are now to consider Him. But they at that time could not consider Him as that Priest, nor, as concerning Him in that time, can we consider Him as that Priest; for when He was on earth, He was not a priest.
But when that time was past, He became Priest. He is now Priest. He is now just as truly Priest as, when He was on earth, He was that Prophet. And in His office and work of priest we are now to consider Him just as truly, just as thoroughly, and just as constantly that Priest, as when He was on earth; they and we must consider Him as that Prophet.
And when He comes again in His glory and in the majesty of His kingdom, and upon the throne of His father David, then we shall consider Him as that King, which He will then indeed be. But not until then can we truly consider Him in His kingly office, as He in that kingship and kingly office will be.
In His kingly office we can now truly contemplate Him as only that which He is yet to be. In His prophetic office we can now contemplate Him only as that which He has been. But in His priesthood we must now consider Him as that which He now is, for only that is what He now is. That is the office in which alone He is now manifested, and that is the office in which alone we can now actually consider Him in His own person and procedure.
Not only are His three offices of prophet, priest, and king successive, but they are successive for a purpose. And they are successive for a purpose in the exact order of the succession as given—prophet, priest, and king. His office as prophet was preparatory and essential to His office as priest; and His offices of prophet and priest, in order, are preparatory to His office as king.
And to us the consideration of Him in these offices in their order is essential.
We must consider Him in His office as prophet, not only in order that we may be taught by Him who spake as never man spake, but also that we shall be able properly to consider Him in His office as priest.
And we must consider Him in His office as priest, not only that we may have the infinite benefit of His priesthood, but also that we shall be prepared for what we are to be. For it is written: “They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
And having considered Him in His office of prophet as preparatory to our properly considering Him in His office as priest, it is essential that we consider Him in His office as priest in order that we shall be able to consider Him in His office as king; that is, in order that we shall be with Him there and reign with Him there. For even of us it is written: “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever,” and “they shall reign forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18; Revelation 22:5)
His priesthood being the present office and work of Christ, this having been His office and work ever since His ascension to heaven, Christ in His priesthood is the all-important study for all Christians, as well as for all other people.
Chapter 1—“Such an High Priest”
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1, 2)
This is the summing up of the evidence of the high priesthood of Christ presented in the first seven chapters of Hebrews. The “sum” thus presented is not particularly that we have an High Priest but that “we have such an High Priest.” “Such” signifies “of that kind; of a like kind or degree,”—“the same as previously mentioned or specified; not another or different.”
That is to say: In the preceding part (the first seven chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews) there have been specified certain things concerning Christ as High Priest, certain qualifications by which He became High Priest, or certain things which are becoming to Him as an High Priest, which are summed up in this text: “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest.”
It is necessary, therefore, to an understanding of this scripture that the previous portion of this epistle shall be reviewed to see what is the true weight and import of this word, “such an High Priest.” The whole of the seventh chapter is devoted to the discussion of this priesthood. The sixth chapter closes with the thought of this priesthood. The fifth chapter is almost wholly devoted to the same thought. The fourth chapter closes with it, and the fourth chapter is but a continuation of the third chapter, which begins with an exhortation to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;” and this as the conclusion from what had already been presented. The second chapter closes with the thought of His being “a merciful and faithful High Priest” and this also as the conclusion from what has preceded in the first and second chapters, for though they are two chapters the subject is but one.
This sketch shows plainly that in the first seven chapters of Hebrews the one great thought over all is the priesthood of Christ and that the truths presented, whatever the thought or the form may be, are all simply the presentation in different ways of the great truth of this priesthood, all of which is finally summed up in the words: “We have such an High Priest.”
Therefore, in discovering the true weight and import of this expression, “such an High Priest,” it is necessary to begin with the very first words of the book of Hebrews and follow the thought straight through to the summing up, bearing constantly in mind that the one transcendent thought in all that is presented is “such an High Priest” and that in all that is said the one great purpose is to show to mankind that we have “such an High Priest.” However rich and full may be the truths in themselves, concerning Christ, which are contained in the successive statements, it must be constantly borne in mind that these truths— however rich, however full—are all expressed with the one great aim of showing that we have “such an High Priest.” And in studying these truths as they are presented in the epistle, they must be held as subordinate and tributary to the great truth over all that is the “sum,”—“we have such an High Priest.”
In the second chapter of Hebrews, as the conclusion of the argument there presented, it is written: “Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.” (Hebrews 2:17) In this it is declared that Christ’s condescension, His likeness to mankind, His being made flesh and dwelling amongst men, was necessary to His becoming “a merciful and faithful High Priest.” But in order to know the measure of His condescension and what is the real meaning of His place in the flesh as the Son of man and man, it is necessary to know what was first the measure of His exaltation as the Son of God and God, and this is the subject of the first chapter.
The condescension of Christ, the position of Christ, and the nature of Christ as He was in the flesh in the world are given in the second chapter of Hebrews more fully than in any other one place in the Scriptures. But this is in the second chapter. The first chapter precedes it. Therefore the truth and the thought presented in the first chapter are essentially precedent to the second chapter. The first chapter must be fully understood in order to be able to follow the thought and understand the truth in the second chapter.
In the first chapter of Hebrews, the exaltation, the position, and the nature of Christ as He was in heaven before He came to the world are more fully given than in any other single portion of the Scriptures. Therefore it is certain that an understanding of the position and nature of Christ as He was in heaven is essential to a proper understanding of His position and nature as He was on earth. And since it behooved Him to be what He was on earth, in order that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, it is essential to know what He was in heaven, for this is essential precedent to what He was on earth and is therefore an essential part of the evidence that is summed up in the expression, “We have such an High Priest.”
Chapter 2—Christ as God
What, then, is the thought concerning Christ in the first chapter of Hebrews?
First of all there is introduced “God”—God the Father—as the speaker to men, who “in time past spake unto the fathers by the prophets” and who “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
Thus is introduced Christ the Son of God. Then of Him and the Father it is written: “Whom He [the Father] hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He [the Father] made the worlds.” Thus, as preliminary to His introduction and our consideration of Him as High Priest, Christ the Son of God is introduced as being with God as Creator and as being the active, vivifying Word in the creation—“by whom also He [God] made the worlds.” (Verse 2)
Next, of the Son of God Himself we read: “Who being the brightness of His [God’s] glory, and the express image of His [God’s] person [“the very impress of His substance,” margin R.V.], and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Verse 3)
This tells us that in heaven the nature of Christ was the nature of God, that He in His person, in His substance, is the very impress, the very character, of the substance of God. That is to say that in heaven as He was before He came to the world the nature of Christ was in very substance the nature of God.
Therefore it is further written of Him that He was “made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Verse 4) This more excellent name is the name “God,” which, in the eighth verse, is given by the Father to the Son: “Unto the Son He [God] saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
Thus, He is “so much” better than the angels as God is better than the angels. And it is because of this that He has that more excellent name—the name expressing only what He is in His very nature.
And this name “He hath by inheritance.” It is not a name that was bestowed but a name that is inherited.
Now it lies in the nature of things, as an everlasting truth, that the only name any person can possibly inherit is his father’s name. This name, then, of Christ’s, which is more excellent than that of the angels, is the name of His Father, and His Father’s name is God. The Son’s name, therefore, which He has by inheritance, is God. And this name, which is more excellent than that of the angels, is His because he is “so much better than the angels.” That name being God, He is “so much better than the angels” as God is better than the angels.
Next, His position and nature, as better than that of the angels, is dwelt upon: “For unto which of the angels said He [the Father] at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?” (Verse 5) This holds the thought of the more excellent name spoken of in the previous verse. For He, being the Son of God—God being His Father, thus hath “by inheritance” the name of His Father, which is God and which is so much more excellent than the name of the angels as God is better than they.
This is dwelt upon yet further: “And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, and let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Verse 6) Thus He is so much better than the angels that He is worshiped by the angels: and this according to the will of God, because He is, in His nature, God.
This thought of the mighty contrast between Christ and the angels is dwelt upon yet further: “Of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever [“from eternity to eternity,” German translation].” (Verse 8)
And again, “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” (Verses 8, 9)
And yet again, the Father, in speaking to the Son, says: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou are the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” (Verses 10-12)
Note the contrasts here and in them read the nature of Christ. The heavens shall perish, but He remains. The heavens shall wax old, but His years shall not fail. The heavens shall be changed, but He is the same. This shows that He is God, of the nature of God.
Yet more of this contrast between Christ and the angels: “To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Verses 13, 14)
Thus, in the first chapter of Hebrews Christ is revealed higher than the angels, as God; and as much higher than the angels as is God, because He is God. In the first chapter of Hebrews Christ is revealed as God, of the name of God, because He is of the nature of God. And so entirely is His nature of the nature of God that it is the very impress of the substance of God.
This is Christ the Saviour, Spirit of Spirit, substance of substance, of God.
And this it is essential to know in the first chapter of Hebrews, in order to know what is His nature revealed in the second chapter of Hebrews as man.
(To be continued)
(This article was taken from pages 3-16 of the book, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, by Alonzo T. Jones. Some editing has been done for this publication. Editor)