Much confusion surrounds the person of one "Melchizedek" found in the book of Genesis, mentioned only briefly in the Psalms, and expounded upon enough to raise many more questions in the New Testament book of Hebrews. It is my hope that this brief exposition will help clear the air on this very important topic. For Christians need to know about Melchizedek, as the Bible ties Him to the very important biblical teaching of the resurrection from the dead, as we shall see.
First, let us go upon a brief fact-collecting mission by examining the OT and then NT texts that tell us what we wish to know. First we turn to the Older Testament.
Genesis 14:17-20 reads:
And the king of Sodom went out to meet him [Abram] after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abram], and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] tithes of all.
Here, we glean the following helps:
1. Melchizedek is king of Salem, which city later inherits the name "Jerusalem."
2. He was "Priest of the Most High God."
3. He blessed Abram [or later "Abraham"].
4. He brought out to Abram "bread and wine."
5. He named Abram "possessor of heaven and earth."
6. Melchizedek bears a Gentile, or non-Hebrew name.
7. He Blessed Abram at just the moment when Abram showed himself a conqueror of kings.
Now onto the book of Psalms. Psalm 110:1-4 reads:
The LORD said unto my Lord [Messiah], Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion [Jerusalem]: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou [Messiah] art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
Here we learn that God will swear an oath establishing the Messiah as a priest after the priestly order of Melchizedek. David, the king of Jerusalem could only have meant to point out the Messiah in this Psalm, since David had no earthly superior or "lord." We can understand the phrase "after the order of Melchizedek" better by asking "as opposed to what?" The answer comes back quickly, "And not after the order of Aaron and Levi established in the day of Moses under the Older Covenant." This contrast between the two different priesthoods comes from the book of Hebrews.
When God would establish the Messiah in the New priestly order, the Messiah would sit at the right hand of the Lord, and rule in the midst of His [The Christ's] enemies, sending from Jerusalem "the rod of His strength," thereby progressively subduing His enemies until God had completely brought them "under his feet," treating them as a footstool. So the question then becomes WHEN did God swear this oath to Messiah, establishing Him as the head of a new priesthood?
Hebrews 5:4-6 reads, "And no man taketh this honour [of becoming a priest] unto himself, but he that is called of God [becomes priest], as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee [Psalm 2]. As he saith also in another place [Psalm 110], Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Thus, we learn from the book Hebrews that God the Father installed Jesus Christ as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek with these two sayings. He said the one when he said the other. Paul tells us more specifically about the timing of this installation. He gives us the answer plainly in Acts 13:32-34, saying,
"And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David."
When God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, He swore an oath to Christ, establishing Him forever as King of kings, and Great High Priest: Head of the Church and Head of every state. But we could have known of the timing of this oath even if Paul had not told us. The first indicator we have from Melchizedek Himself -- for He bears a Gentile name, and reigns over a Gentile city. And second, note the blessing issued to Abraham by way of bread and wine -- which comprise the appointed elements of New Covenant sacrament of the Lord's supper.
This shows that God intended by grace to bless the Gentiles [from Jerusalem] through Abraham and his Seed. And Paul names the Lord Jesus as "the seed of Abraham" (Gal. 3). Jesus died in Jerusalem with the titulus over his head which read, "The King of the Jews." And he was raised to life as King over the Gentile nations also, when God said to Him, "Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee," and again, He said to Christ, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." From there (Jerusalem) the Lord Christ, upon ascending the throne of God to begin reigning in the midst of his enemies, poured out His Holy Spirit upon the apostles and prophets, and began conquering the known world by the rod of his strength -- His Word and Spirit.
The bread and wine instituted by Christ signified His once for all sacrifice, which would forever replace the sacrifices of the Temple complex. The glory of God that had indwelt the Temple now inhabited Christ's people -- both Jew and Gentile alike, without respect to their ethnicity -- showing that they are the New Temple and the New Jerusalem -- a global city and an international Temple. As they grow in number, Christ rules in the midst of His enemies and shows Himself "Possessor of Heaven and earth."
For in His resurrection, the Lord Jesus commanded His Church: ".... saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
But a priesthood consists of many priests (by definition) and not one priest only. So, apart from Jesus, the High Priest, where are the other priests? 1 Peter 2: 9-10 reads, "But ye [Christians] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."
A royal priesthood means a priesthood of kings, or as the book of revelation puts it, "... kings and priests to our God" (Rev. 1:8). Every true believer in Jesus will reign as a king over his inheritance (in the resurrection) as well as serve God as a priest, a priest not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek. Right now, Christians remain "kings and priests in training." But we are nevertheless "kings and priests," a royal priesthood and an holy nation, because the Lord Jesus has purchased men by His Blood and given to us "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3). This is why Paul said to the Corinthians (chidingly): "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." (1 Cor. 4:8).
Now readers have a better understanding of Paul's saying: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." For those who cling to Christ and keep the commandments of God, this will be the verdict on judgment day, "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
If the above details alone do not suffice to clinch the point in the reader's mind, then suffice it to say that, given Melchizedek's circumstances and biographical details, He could not be any other than a pre-incarnate revelation of the Messiah. I shall then leave off with this very interesting point. Although very few have understood this, the central theme of the book of Revelation rests upon the doctrine of the resurrection of the saints, and their reigning -- as kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek -- on the earth for a thousand years. How's that for a literary exit!
About the author:
Carson Day has written approximately 1.3 gazillion articles and essays, many with very insightful, if alternative, viewpoints. He presently writes for Ophir Gold Corporation, and specialized in the history of ideas in college. He has been quoted in the past as saying "What box?" and remains at large despite the best efforts of the civil authorities.
You can visit the Ophir Gold Corporation blogsites at http://scriberight.blogspot.com(Writing With Power), http://ophirgoldcorp.blogspot.com(OGC's Free Web Traffic), or http://ophirgold.blogspot.com(Church and State 101)
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