These Last Days

God has spoken His decisive and superior “word” in His son, and He did so “upon the last of these days.” This refers to the end of the period epitomized by the Levitical code with its priesthood and repeated animal sacrifices, a system of worship centered in the Tabernacle and the later Jerusalem Temple. With the appointment of Jesus as the High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” a new and final era of salvation commenced.

The Letter to the Hebrews shows only limited interest in the final events expected before the return of Jesus. Instead, the focus is on the present situation of the Assembly addressed by the Letter.

Beach sunset - Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash
[Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash]

This is not to say the Letter shows no interest in topics beyond the priesthood of Jesus or his new covenant. It certainly does look forward to final events including “
salvation,” the “coming habitable earth,” God’s “rest” for His saints, and the “abiding city” of the “living God, heavenly Jerusalem.”

The Church is in transit to the new Promised Land, and this is why believers must “hold fast to the things they have heard,” lest they find themselves receiving a “sorer punishment” from the “living God” for again “trampling underfoot the Son of God.” Abandoning Jesus now would mean the loss of everything, salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life in the heavenly city.

The Letter is addressed to a congregation where members were contemplating returning to the local synagogue to escape pressure and hostility from outsiders. To discourage this, the Author of Hebrews presented a series of comparisons that highlighted the superiority of what God provided in His Son “upon these last days.”

With the arrival of the Messiah and his inauguration of the New Covenant, the obsolete era of the Levitical priesthood that amounted to “glimpses and shadows” of the coming “better things” has concluded, and the promised New Covenant is now underway - (Hebrews 1:1-4).

To return to the synagogue would mean once again practicing the rites of the Levitical system, including its repeated animal sacrifices, and that is why the Letter spends considerable time demonstrating the superiority of the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” of Jesus along with his one-time non-repeatable sacrifice.

WEAKNESS OF THE OLD ORDER


The priestly service and animal sacrifices of the Levitical system failed to cleanse the believer’s conscience of sin. In contrast, having “achieved the purification of sin,” our new High Priest “sat down” in the presence of God where he now intercedes for us. His victory launched the New Covenant. This means the “former” covenant reached its termination point. Thus, one era superseded another.

The “Son” instituted what the old order represented but failed to achieve, indeed, it was never capable of accomplishing the “purification of sins” because of human weakness and mortality.

  • (Hebrews 9:24-26) - For not into a holy place made by hand entered Christ, the counterpart of the real one, but into the heaven itself, now, to be manifested before the face of God in our behalf, nor yet that often he should be offering himself, just as the High-Priest enters into the holy place year by year with alien blood; else had it been necessary for him to suffer often from the foundation of the world. But now, ONCE FOR ALLUPON THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGES, for a putting away of sin through his sacrifice, has he been manifested.”

In this passage, the Greek noun translated as “counterpart” more accurately means “antitype.” The Tabernacle was the “type” or model, but the heavenly sanctuary is the “antitype,” the reality itself. If “perfection through the Levitical priesthood” was ever a real possibility, there would have been no need to install a new priesthood “according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The repeated animal sacrifices of the “former covenant” were only “shadows of the good things to come, but not the very image of the things.” They were incapable of “perfecting those who draw near” the altar. Moreover, the Letter links what the “Son” achieved in his one-time sacrifice to the “consummation of the ages.” In other words, “upon these last days,” the period that began with the victory of Jesus over sin – (Hebrews 7:11-12).

Unlike the Levitical priests, the Son “offered one sacrifice for sins forevermore, and then sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering, he has perfected forever those who are sanctified.” Rather than another animal sacrifice, Jesus offered himself, and only “once for all” – (Hebrews 10:1-14).

The Letter does not declare that the Son “sat down on the right hand of God” to highlight his reign over the Cosmos, as true as that reality is, but to show that he is our “High Priest, the minister of the Sanctuary and the True Tabernacle.”

The Levitical priests served in a man-made tent, and it was a mere “copy and shadow of the heavenly thing.” But the Son now intercedes forever in the greater Tabernacle “pitched by God” – (Hebrews 8:1-13).

As our High Priest, Jesus mediates the “better covenant that has been enacted upon better promises.” By promising the “New Covenant” that does cleanse the stain of sin and the conscience of the individual believer, the Scriptures declare that the first covenant is “old and becoming obsolete and near to vanishing away” - (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-13).

Thus, with the advent of the “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek,” the time of the former priesthood with its extensive rituals and repeated animal sacrifices reached its intended conclusion. The new and final era of Salvation History commenced with the appearance of Jesus, the Messiah, and our High Priest, “upon these last days.” There can be no return to the old order. All attempts to do so will end in disaster.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Purification of Sins - (Having achieved the purification of sins, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God to intercede for his people as their faithful High Priest)
  • God has spoken - (God spoke His definitive word in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. All previous words spoken in the prophets were preparatory, promissory, and partial)
  • Merciful and Faithful Priest - (Jesus is well-equipped to be our faithful and sympathetic high priest, having participated fully in humanity’s plight)

{Published originally on the High Priest Forever website}

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