Names of God Day 2: Great High Priest
“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26, ESV)
The Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest. What exactly does that mean? Didn’t He put an end to the priestly system of the Old Testament when He came?
As we look into Scripture to see the role of Christ as our Great High Priest, we’ll be able to answer these questions. It’s first important, though, to understand the role of the high priest as described in the Old Testament.
The job of the Old Testament priests was to regularly offer sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel and for their own sins (Leviticus 4). They were allowed to go in to the outer part of the tabernacle when they offered sacrifices. But only the high priest could enter the innermost part, the most holy place, and that, only one day of the year: the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). When he did, he had to cleanse himself, dress in specific attire, and bring a specific offering. On this day, the high priest offered a sacrifice as atonement (covering for sin) for all the people of Israel.
But these duties (especially what happened on the Day of Atonement) were only a picture of what the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross. When He died, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and became our permanent covering by taking the punishment on Himself and removing our sin forever. He was the offerer and the offering, the High Priest and the sacrifice. Praise God for His abundance!
There are many verses in the letter to the Hebrews that explain Christ’s role as Great High Priest, and I think it is important and helpful to read some of them verbatim…
“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. It was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy , innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:23-24,26-27).
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).
Forever… once for all… for all time. Christ’s priestly work on the cross satisfied God eternally; that should be enough to satisfy us, too.
But was Christ’s work as High Priest finished at the cross? Not at all! Christ now lives in heaven, serving as our Great High Priest in the presence of God. His role is explained in several ways:
He makes intercession for us, and gives us access into God’s presence.
“He holds his priesthood permanently… Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).
He gives us confidence to enter that presence.
“Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-20,22).
He remains the perfect One to whom we can look in every hardship we face.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
He makes us fit to serve God.
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls… sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:12-14).
Let’s give thanks to God that Christ is our Great High Priest forever.