Shadows in the law of Moses
Moses wrote about Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, in the law. For Jesus said to the Jews: “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (John 5:46 – NKJV). Therefore, since the law has a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of these things, in it we find persons and things that foreshadowed the Messiah and His redemptive work. Let’s look at some of them.
Joseph, the son of Jacob
Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in his old age, and when the brothers of Joseph saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. When Joseph was seventeen years old he had two dreams. In his first dream he saw this: he and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly his sheaf rose and stood upright, while the sheaves of his brothers gathered around his sheave and bowed down to it. And in his second dream he saw the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. He told his dreams to his brothers, but they hated him all the more because of his dreams. One day, since the brothers of Joseph had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, Jacob sent his son Joseph to his brothers in order to see if all was well with his brothers and with the flocks. So Joseph went to his brothers and found them near Dothan. But when they saw him in the distance they plotted to kill him. However, God frustrated their plot through Reuben, one the sons of Jacob, who suggested that they should throw him into a cistern in the desert. So they took Joseph and threw him into a cistern. Then Judah suggested that they should sell Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites; his brothers agreed and so they sold Joseph for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood, and they took the robe back to their father, who recognized it and came to the conclusion that some ferocious animal had devoured Joseph. In Egypt Joseph was bought by Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered. His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, and so Potiphar put him in charge of his household and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. However, the wife of Potiphar cast longing eyes on Joseph and tried to seduce him, but Joseph refused to lie with her. One day she even caught him by his cloak and said: “Lie with me”, but he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. But that evil woman said to his husband that Joseph had come in to her to mock her, but as soon as she screamed for help, he left his cloak beside him and ran out of the house. Her husband got angry and took Joseph and put him in prison. But God was with Joseph even in prison and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two servants and put them in prison, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. After they had been in prison for some time, both of them had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were sad, so he asked them why their faces were so sad and they answered him that it was because they both had had dreams but there was no one who could interpret them. So Joseph asked them to tell him their dreams, and after he had heard them he interpreted them, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. According to the interpretation given by Joseph, the chief cupbearer would be restored to his position within three days, while the chief baker would be killed by Pharaoh within three days. And things turned out exactly as Joseph had interpreted for them. When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had two dreams and his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. He told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Then the chief cupbearer told Pharaoh that while he had been in prison with the chief baker, he and the chief baker had had a dream the same night, which were interpreted for them by Joseph and things turned out exactly as Joseph had interpreted the dreams to them. Therefore Pharaoh sent for Joseph. He told Joseph his two dreams and Joseph interpreted them for Pharaoh. According to the interpretation given by Joseph, God would send seven years of great abundance throughout the land of Egypt, and those years would be followed by seven years of famine. Therefore Joseph advised Pharaoh to look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt so that he might took a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance, and that food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine, so that the country might not be ruined by the famine. The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials, and Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt. So Joseph was made ruler over Egypt. At God’s appointed time the seven years of abundance came throughout the land of Egypt, and Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. When the seven years of abundance had ended, the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. Joseph was the governor of the land, and it was He who sold grain to all the people of the land. When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he sent his sons to Egypt to buy some grain, so that they might live and not die. On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and he sent for his father Jacob and his whole family. Then Jacob went down to Egypt with all his family and they did not die for Joseph provided for them (Genesis chapters 37, 39-47).
In reading the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, we cannot but acknowledge that he foreshadowed the Messiah. Let’s see why.
As Joseph was sent by his father to his brothers to see if all was well with them, and they despised him and plotted to kill him but God prevented them from fulfilling their evil purpose, so Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, in the fullness of the time was sent by God to Israel, that is, to His own house, so that they might be saved through Him; however, His brothers according to the flesh, that is, the Jews, did not receive Him, as it is written: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). They rewarded Him evil for good, and hatred for His love, they despised Him and several times they sought to kill him. But God delivered him from their hands because His hour had not yet come (Luke 4:28-30; John 7:30; 10:31).
As Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites by his brothers, so Jesus was sold to the chief priests and the elders by one of his disciples, called Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:14-16).
As Joseph was numbered with the evildoers when he was put in prison because of the false accusation of the wife of Potiphar, so Jesus was numbered with the transgressors for He was crucified between two robbers (Matthew 27:38). However, just as what happened to Joseph was decreed by God, so also what happened to Jesus was decreed by God; for the enemies of Jesus – by putting Him to death – did what the hand and purpose of God had determined before to be done (Acts 4:28).
As God granted Joseph justice against his adversaries by setting him free from prison, so God granted His Holy Servant Jesus justice against His many adversaries by raising Him from the dead on the third day, loosing the pains of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:24).
As Joseph, after he was released, was put in charge of all the land of Egypt by the king of Egypt and he saved Jacob and his family and also the Egyptians from death, so God, after He raised Jesus from the dead, exalted Jesus to His own right hand as Prince and Saviour so that He might give repentance and remission of sins to the Jews and to the Gentiles, that they might be saved (Acts 5:31; 11:18).
As Joseph saved the life of many people by a great deliverance, so Jesus Christ has saved many people all over the world by a great deliverance. However, whereas Joseph saved those people by selling grain to them, Jesus saved us by giving us freely His flesh to eat and His blood to drink (John 6:47-58); and furthermore, whereas Joseph saved those people just from physical death, Jesus saved us from the second death, that is, from eternal punishment. For He said that he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life, and He will raise him up at the last day (John 6:54). Therefore the deliverance worked by Jesus is much more glorious than that worked by Joseph.
As we saw before, while Joseph was the ruler of Egypt, Jacob went down to Egypt together with his whole family (seventy-five in all). Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten, and the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous. This troubled very much the king of Egypt who was reigning at that time (he was a king who did not know about Joseph), who decided to put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor. So the Israelites became slaves of Pharaoh, and their slavery was very hard. That slavery lasted four hundred years. At God’s appointed time God sent His servant Moses down to Egypt to bring His people out of Egypt. So Moses went to Pharaoh and told him to let the Israelites go out of His country, but he refused to let them go. Then God struck the Egyptians with some terrible plagues in order to force them to let His people go out of Egypt. When God sent the tenth plague, Pharaoh decided to let the Israelites go. Here is what God said to Moses about the tenth plague, which forced Pharaoh to let the Israelites go from Egypt: “Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether. … About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (Exodus 11:1,4-6). So God said that about midnight He would put to death every firstborn son in Egypt. However, He said also that on that same night the Israelites were to eat the Passover. Here is what God said to Moses and Aaron: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:2-20). As you can see, the Israelites were to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they would eat the lamb. And that blood would be a sign for them on the houses where they were and when God would see the blood He would pass over them and the plague would not be on them to destroy them when He would strike the land of Egypt. The Israelites did what God had commanded them through Moses and Aaron, and on that night God killed all the firstborn of the Egyptians and spared all the firstborn of the Israelites.
Now the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 – NKJV). Why did Paul call Jesus ‘our Passover’? Because Jesus Christ is the true Passover Lamb, who in the fullness of the time was killed for us, so that by His own blood we might be redeemed from our sins and delivered from the wrath to come. So the lamb which was killed on that night in Egypt was only a shadow of the true Passover Lamb. Let me explain to you why that lamb killed in Egypt was a shadow of Jesus Christ.
● The lamb that the Israelites took on the tenth day of the first month and killed on the fourteenth day, was a male of the first year and without blemish. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) “without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19 – NIV), who was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for us. In other words, in the fullness of the time God sent the Passover Lamb (that was with Him in heaven from eternity) into this world so that He might die for our sins on the cross of Calvary.
● The blood of the Passover Lamb which was put by the Israelites on the two doorposts and on the lintel of their houses, was a sign for them, because it prevented the angel of the Lord from entering their houses and killing their firstborn. Likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ, which was sprinkled on us (1 Peter 1:2) – and remember that we are God’s house (Hebrews 3:6) – will be a sign for us, because by it we will be saved from the wrath to come. On that day, God will destroy his enemies and will spare us, as it is written: “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:17). God will spare us because the blood of Jesus Christ, the Passover that was sacrificed for us, is on us, and when God sees the blood of Jesus Christ He will pass over us and will not bring judgement on us. We are washed in His blood, and by faith in His blood we will be saved from wrath. And as on that day in Egypt the Israelites knew that the Lord made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites (Exodus 11:7), so on the day of the Lord, which is still to come, we will again see “the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not” (Malachi 3:18 – NIV).
The bronze serpent
In the book of Numbers we read: “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Numbers 21:5-9).
The serpent of brass foreshadowed Jesus Christ, because just as the Israelites who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, in order not to die because of their sins, had to look at the serpent of brass which Moses had made and set on a pole; so now those who are dead in their sins and trespasses and are on the way which leads to destruction (that is, to the second death, which is the lake of fire burning with brimstone) because of their sins, in order to be made alive and to escape the second death, must look at the Son of God, that is to say, they must believe in Him. Jesus Christ is the One at whom men must look to be saved, for He himself said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Therefore salvation is not by works but by grace, because it is obtained only by faith in Jesus Christ.
In the book of Exodus we read the following story: “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD. And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah” (Exodus 16:1-36)
The bread God gave to the Israelites in the wilderness foreshadowed Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is the true bread God has given us from heaven, which gives life to the world. Listen to what Jesus said to the Jews one day: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world ….I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. …. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:32-33,35,47-51). As you can see, while the bread given by God to the Israelites did not prevent the Israelites from seeing death, the bread of God which came down from heaven, that is, Jesus Christ, enables those who eat it (that is, those who believe in Him) to live forever; and while that bread did not satisfy the hunger of the Israelites once for all because in the wilderness they needed to eat it every day, the bread of God which came down from heaven has satisfied the spiritual hunger of those who have believed in Him, for Jesus said that he who comes to Him will never go hungry.
In the book of Exodus we read the following story: “And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7).
That rock foreshadowed Jesus Christ, because as that rock was stricken so that water might come out of it, so Jesus Christ was stricken – the prophet says: “Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4 – NIV) – so that the water of life ‘might come out of Him’ and we might drink it. However, while the Israelites after they drank that water were thirsty again, those who drink the water Jesus gives them, will never thirst; for one day Jesus said to a Samaritan woman: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).
The High Priest and the atoning sacrifices
After God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt through Moses, He led them to Mount Sinai, where He made a covenant with the people of Israel. God ordained the law and commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to make Him a sanctuary, as He said to Moses: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Exodus 25:8-9). The sanctuary (or tabernacle) was built, but it was only a copy and shadow of the perfect sanctuary which is in heaven. The sanctuary was divided into two parts, that is to say, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Here is a brief description of it: “For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary [the Holy Place]; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (Hebrews 9:2-5 – NKJV).
The covenant made by God with the Israelites had ordinances of divine service, and God chose Aaron and his sons to perform them. Aaron was ordained High Priest for the Israelites, that He might offer both gifts and sacrifices for the sins of the people, while his sons were ordained priests. Now the High Priest had to offer sacrifices also for his sins, and not only for the people’s sins, for he himself was also subject to weakness and it was because of that weakness that he could have compassion on those who were ignorant and going astray (Hebrews 5:2-3). The High Priest offered those sacrifices for sins once every year, for according to the law he had to enter the Most Holy Place once every year with the blood of some animals, that he offered for himself and for the people’s sins. However, he himself and the sacrifices which he had to offer for sins were only a shadow of the true High Priest and the true sacrifice which the true High Priest in the fullness of the time would offer for the sins of the whole world. As for the priests, they were not allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, but only the Holy Place, where they entered regularly to carry on their ministry.
I have just said that the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place only once a year: that occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month. Let us look closely at what he had to do on that day to make atonement for his own sins and for the sins of the people of Israel, in order to understand the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the book of Leviticus we read: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat … For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. …. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year” (Leviticus 16:11-15, 30,34). That’s how the High Priest on that particular day made atonement for his sins and for the sins of the people.
Now, since God has made a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah and with us believing Gentiles (a covenant which is better than the one God made at Mount Sinai with the Israelites), He has appointed another High Priest for men in things pertaining to God. And He took him from among men and ordained Him High Priest forever. What’s the name of this High Priest? His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for God has said to His Son: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:6; Psalm 110:4). Now let me explain to you what the Son of God, who was with God the Father from eternity in heaven, had to do in order to become the High Priest of the New Covenant. First, He had to become a man, for the Scripture teaches that the Son of God, in order to have compassion on us and to be able to help us, who are the seed of Abraham, had to be made like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17); therefore, because we have flesh and blood, He too shared in our humanity. So the Son of God, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God and that He might make atonement for our sins, took the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of men. Second, He had to suffer, and we know that He suffered many things in the days of His flesh, and because of His sufferings He is able to help us, as it is written: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18 – NIV). Brothers in the Lord, the Son of God had to be tempted by the devil, that’s why He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan; the Son of God had to suffer, that’s why He suffered many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders and He was rejected by that sinful generation. The Scripture says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10 – NKJV), and in fact it was through His sufferings that the Son of God was made perfect forever and He became a faithful and merciful High Priest. Beloved, it was because the Son of God shared in our humanity that He could destroy death and “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14) and “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). An angel, being a spirit, could not do what Jesus Christ has done, for only a true man, holy, just and perfect could help us and save us from our sins, and thanks be unto God for He ordained for us such a High Priest, who through all His sufferings was made perfect for ever; yes, we needed such a High Priest and God knew that and so He raised Him up; His name is Jesus.
As Aaron did not take upon himself the glory of becoming High Priest, so also Jesus Christ “did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (Hebrews 5:5 – NKJV. cf. Psalm 2:7), and “as He also says in another place, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6 – NKJV. cf. Psalm 110:4). So Jesus Christ is High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of Aaron; let’s see then who was this Melchisedec. The Scripture says: “This Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:1-3). As you can see, the greatness of this Melchisedec is shown by the fact that Abraham, the patriarch, gave him a tenth part of all, but also by the fact that Melchisedec blessed “him that had the promises,” and “without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (Hebrews 7:6,7). Therefore Melchisedec is greater than Aaron and all the levitical priests, for Levi himself (who at that time was still in the loins of his father Abraham) who received tithes from the people according to the law, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, and gave the tenth to someone who did not trace his descent from Levi, that is, to Melchisedec.
Jesus, the High Priest of our profession, according to the flesh descended from the tribe of Judah and not from the tribe of Levi, to whom God entrusted the priesthood. Someone may ask: ‘Why was there need for another High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of Aaron, to come?’ Brothers, it was necessary for another priest to come because perfection could not be attained through the Levitical priesthood, so God raised up another priest from the tribe of Judah, a priest who is after an order more excellent than the order of Aaron, through whom we have been made perfect in regard to the conscience. The High Priest of our profession is greater than the High Priests of the Old Testament because those High Priests were made priests without an oath, while Jesus Christ was made High Priest with an oath, as it is written: “The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:” (Hebrews 7:21; Psalm 110:4); that is the reason why the Covenant (that is, the New Covenant) of which Jesus became the guarantee is better than the first Covenant, that is, the Old Covenant.
The High Priests under the Old Covenant were weak or imperfect, but “the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:28 – NIV); those High Priests were many “because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25). Brothers, Jesus Christ died, but the third day He rose again and death no longer has dominion over Him; He is at the right hand of God where He intercedes for us continually. Jesus is the Mediator between God and us, and therefore we draw near to God in full assurance of faith, being sure that His ears are open to our prayers and He answers our prayers, for we draw near to Him in the name of His Son, who is High Priest for ever.
The High Priests, under the law, had to offer each year the blood of goats and bulls to make atonement for their own sins and the sins of the people, but Jesus Christ offered Himself once for all for our sins. The Scripture says: “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). That means that even though the Israelites offered those sacrifices for their sins, God remembered their sins each year; their sins were never blotted out from their conscience, because those sacrifices were imperfect and they were only a shadow of the atoning sacrifice which the Son of God offered in these last times for us; the Israelites continued to have conscience of sins for the ordinances concerning the sacrifices were just fleshly ordinances imposed by God until the time of reformation, that is, until the fullness of the time. That’s why it is written that those sacrifices “could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Hebrews 9:9). They were just fat animals, it was just blood of animals, how could then those things put away sin by blotting it out from the conscience of those who offered those sacrifices? But what the blood of bulls and of goats could not do was done by the blood of Jesus Christ, as it is written: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). Brothers, our conscience was defiled by sins, but it was purged from them by the blood of Christ; when we were washed in His blood and sprinkled by it, our sins were taken away or removed, and God remembers them no more, for God has made this promise: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34). So God says: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins …” (Isaiah 44:22); for our old sins like dark clouds were darkening and enveloping our conscience, but Christ with His own blood made them disappear and now they can’t be seen even on the horizon. Listen to what Paul says: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13), yes, all trespasses, not just some of them, because “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The work which is done by the blood of Jesus in the heart of those who accept the Lord is a perfect work, because the blood of Jesus takes away all the old sins; that’s why we are bound to thank God for the blood of the Lamb without blemish and without spot which was shed at Golgotha.
Furthermore, the High Priest of our profession, after He offered Himself to make our conscience perfect entered “into heaven itself”, says the Scripture, and not into a man-made sanctuary “that was only a copy of the true one” (Hebrews 9:24 – NIV). It is written: “He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12 – NIV) for us, and again: “Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world” (Hebrews 9:25-26 – NIV). What Jesus did, when He offered Himself, was done by Him once for all at God’s appointed time, so that He might establish the New Covenant or the New Testament. For in order that the Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ might be dedicated it was necessary to prove His death, because it is written: “In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living” (Hebrews 9:16-17 – NIV). The death of Jesus Christ was proved, therefore the New Testament is in force; in it He has promised us an eternal inheritance. But remember that in order that we might become heirs of this everlasting and glorious inheritance, He, the Only Begotten who came from the Father, had to die. It is written: “Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:18-22). Now, as the first Covenant was dedicated with blood, so also the second Covenant was dedicated with blood, not with blood of calves and goats, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, for Jesus, after He had proclaimed the commandments of God (as He said: “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” John 12:49), pointing to His death, said to His disciples, when He gave them the cup during the night on which He was betrayed, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Therefore the blood Jesus shed at Calvary is the blood of the New Testament (or New Covenant), by which the New Testament was dedicated.
Jesus Christ, by His blood, disclosed and opened for us the way to the Most Holy Place and thus allowed us to come boldly before God; as long as the first tabernacle was still standing, only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place, the priests were not allowed to enter it; but through Jesus Christ, the curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn in two, and now we, as priests of God, have the freedom of approaching the throne of grace in full assurance of faith. We have free and confident access into the very presence of God at any time and at any place (Hebrews 9:7-9; 10:19-23). What a privilege, what a honour! Brothers in the Lord, let us hold fast our faith in the High Priest of our profession until the end.