The Period of Christ's Priestly Ministry

Till when will Jesus minister as man's high priest?

By F. C. GILBERT, Field Secretary of the General Conference

Christ's ministry in behalf of man is indeed manifold. While the Jews do not admit that the prophet spoken of by Moses and recorded in Deuteronomy 18 :15, 18 refers to the Messiah, the apostles, under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, plainly state that that prophet was none other than our Lord Himself. John 1 :21. Says the apos­tle Peter, following the day of Pentecost:

"Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your breth­ren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you." Acts 3 :22.

And the martyr Stephen, when making his defense before the Jewish Council, bears the following testimony in regard to this same prophet referred to by Moses:

"This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me ; Him shall ye hear. This is He, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers." Acts 7;37, 38.

It should be remembered that Christ's min­istry included the work of Moses as well as of the priesthood. It is well, too, to bear in mind that the priesthood of Christ is not mentioned in the New Testament till we reach the book of Hebrews. Peter and other apostles and writers mention the fact that our Lord as­cended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God, but not till we reach the book of Hebrews do we find mention of the priesthood of Christ.

The Spirit of God revealed to the apostle of the Gentiles, for the benefit of the literal seed of Abraham, that the sanctuary ministry was not completed when Messiah died on Calvary and the veil of the temple was rent in twain. As long as man lives in probationary time, as long as there is need of atonement, so long will there be need of intercession. The apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews makes clear that the sanctuary ministry, which had been the heritage of the Israelites for about fifteen cen­turies, was transferred from earth to heaven, from the Aaronic priesthood to the Melchize­dek, or Messianic, priesthood.

The ministry in the sanctuary on earth was but an object lesson of the ministry to be con­ducted in the sanctuary in heaven. As long as the work of the earthly sanctuary was car­ried on by the descendants of Abraham, no ministry was conducted in the heavenly sanc­tuary. Heb. 9:8. The ministry carried on by the tribe of Levi was but a type or object les­son of the ministry to be conducted by man's great High Priest, the Lord Jesus. It should be borne in mind that the non-Jewish nations had the privilege of participating in the serv­ices of the sanctuary, if they would only con­form to the requirements of the Lord. For says the scripture:

"If a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord; as ye do, so he shall do. One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance forever in your generations : as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you." Num. 15 :14-16. (See also Ex. 52:48, 49; Num. 9 :14).

Before the ministry in the earthly sanctuary was started, Moses was in charge of the pre­liminaries, including the dedication and con­secration of the tabernacle and the priesthood. Moses was commanded to enter the most holy place and anoint it. He then anointed the holy place, and likewise did the same to all the parts of the sanctuary, until the entire service was set apart and sanctified. Ex. 4o:9; 30: 26-29,

When the Saviour ascended to heaven, be­fore He was inducted into His office as high priest, He must have entered into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to anoint it, in harmony with the statement made by the angel Gabriel in Daniel 9 :24. When this was completed, He must have done the same to the holy place. Our Lord was then anointed as the high priest, and those who were raised from the dead at the time of His resurrection, and who ascended with Him, were also anointed as His associate priests. God the Father did this anointing, as may be seen from the follow­ing scripture :

"But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, 0 God, is forever and ever : a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved right­eousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, bath anointed Thee with the oil of glad­ness above Thy fellows." Heb. I :8, 9.

The anointing of the heavenly sanctuary, and the induction of the Saviour and His asso­ciates into the priestly heavenly ministry, took place in heaven during the days between the ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

That there are holy places in the heavenly sanctuary is clear from the following scrip­ture: "0 God, Thou art terrible out of Thy holy places: the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto His people." Ps. 68:35.

In writing to his Hebrew brethren, Paul did not deem it necessary to enter into all the de­tails of the arrangements of the heavenly sanc­tuary. He was writing to a people who were familiar with the types, and he recognized that they would understand the general make-up of the tabernacle. It was doubtless because of this fact that he wrote thus to his brethren in regard to the furnishings of the two holy places: "Of which we cannot now speak par­ticularly." Heb. 9 :5.

Paul considered it unnecessary to enter into further discussion of the two holy apartments of the tabernacle, because the people were fa­miliar with the material characteristics of the earthly sanctuary. He did, however, seek to impress them with the thought that the heav­enly ministry was not operative as long as the earthly sanctuary was effective, which for the time of its duration was but a figure of the heavenly ministry. Heb. 9:8, 9.

Following His consecration to the priest­hood, the Saviour entered upon His interces­sion as high priest in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. During the priestly min­istry in the earthly sanctuary, the Lord as­sured Aaron and his sons that He made His abode with them as they carried forward their ministry in the first apartment of the earthly sanctuary day by day. Says the scripture:

"Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar ; two lambs of the first year day by day con­tinually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even: . . . this shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congrega­tion, and the altar : I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to Me in the priest's office, And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God." Ex. 29:38-45.

Thus the Lord assured His people anciently that as they offered their sacrifices each day, and the priests ministered in the holy place of the sanctuary with the blood of the sacri­fices, He would constantly be there with them. It is evident that the Lord was with His people, as they sought Him through the blood of the offerings, day by day, in the holy place of the sanctuary, in the first apartment.

So also our Saviour, when He entered upon His priesthood in heaven with His own pre­cious blood, which He shed on Calvary, began His ministry in the holy place in heaven. That He was consecrated to His priesthood is evi­dent from what the apostle Paul writes: "The law maketh men high priests which have in­firmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is con­secrated forevermore." Heb. 7 :28. That our Lord entered the holy place to begin His ministry for the children of men is evident from what the apostle John wrote when the Saviour revealed Himself to the aged seer on the Isle of Patmos. John says:

"I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle." Rev. 1 :12, 13.

When the Saviour visited this beloved apos­tle in holy vision, He had been in heaven about sixty years. John knew the Saviour, and he declares that he saw the Lord in His priestly robes ministering in the holy place of the heav­enly sanctuary, where the golden candlesticks were located. (See Ex. 26:33-35.)

_________ To be concluded in April

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By F. C. GILBERT, Field Secretary of the General Conference

March 1941

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