Although we have published such views as we have on the peculiar order of the priesthood of our Lord in some of the old volumes of the “Signs of the Times,” as those volumes are not accessible to all our present readers, we are willing to repeat the effort to enlighten, and, if possible, edify those who feel interested. We do not, however, claim to have any new light upon the subject, and can only give such views as we have entertained for many years.
The first text named is Hebrews 7:1, “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest unto the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him,” etc.
Both Aaron and Melchisedec were priests of the most high God, and both were typical of the great high priest of our profession, which is Jesus Christ. But in the order of their respective priesthoods, there was a very great difference. The order of the priesthood of Aaron was laid down in, and formed an important part of, the Levitical law. It was established in the tribe of Levi, and restricted to the house, or family, of Aaron; subsequently to his ordination it was unlawful for any one, however gifted or pious, to officiate in the priestly office which he held, but himself and his sons. In order to admit of any one who was not of that tribe and family officiating in that office which God had restricted and confined to Aaron and his sons, there must of necessity be a change of the law in which that peculiar order was provided (Hebrews 7:12). The peculiar order of Aaron’s priesthood precluded, and disqualified any priest of that order from being king, as it disallowed any of the other tribes from being priests. And almost the whole epistle to the Hebrews is devoted to the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, as answering to all that was signified by the two dissimilar orders of the priesthood, as typified in Aaron and Melchisedec. The Aaronic priesthood, with its offerings, was faulty, inefficient, and could not make those for whom its offerings were made perfect. The offerings under it were such as bullocks and calves, lambs and kids, whose blood had no power to cleanse the consciences of those for whom they were offered continually, from dead works, or qualify them to serve the true God. The constant repetition of the offerings from year to year, as well as the transmission of the priesthood from sire to son, as long as that law should hold its dominion, is an evidence of its want of power to take away sin, or purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. It being typical was the shadow of good things to come. While in vindication of the inexorable law of God in its demand for blood, and in showing that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins. The sins of those for whom the offerings were made were only remitted ceremonially, and remembrance was had of them again every year; yet this ceremonial, or typical atonement, inefficient though it was, pointed to the perfect priesthood and efficient offering of Christ, who, through the Eternal Spirit, did alone offer himself unto God, and by one offering perfect forever them that are sanctified, or set apart (Hebrews 10:14). While the priesthood of Christ perfectly answered to that of Aaron so far as the type was designed to represent it, there were excellencies in the priesthood of Christ far superior, and which required a priesthood of a superior order to set them forth typically.
That which was lacking in the priesthood and order of Aaron is supplied in the order of Melchisedec. Some of the deficiencies of the one order which are supplied in the other are pointed out by the inspired writer of our text.
First, the order of Melchisedec was anterior to that of Aaron, and superior to it. It was anterior, for before Aaron was born, while his father Levi was in the loins of Abraham, Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec, and received the blessing of Melchisedec, wherein the less was blessed by the greater.
Secondly, it was superior because the order of Melchisedec united the dominion, or kingly, office with that of the priesthood, making it a royal priesthood; whereas there was no royalty belonging to the order of Aaron’s priesthood. But in the order of his priesthood designed to be typified, we “behold the man whose name is THE BRANCH, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord; even he shall built the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zechariah 6:12,13).” Now to typify the King of Righteousness, and the Priest unto the Most High God, with the counsel (not council - as some have understood it) between them both, both King and Priest, with the counsel of peace between them, are embodied in the one person of him who sits a priest upon his throne. Here we see the harmony and suitableness of the type. “For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, and priest unto the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; unto whom Abraham gave a tenth of all, first being by interpretation king of righteousness, and after that king of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.” No part of this description applied to Melchisedec as a man, but as a priest and king. Observe the apostle calls him a man; but as to the peculiar order of his priesthood he had neither predecessor or successor. His descent, the apostle says, is not counted from them; that is, from the tribe of Levi, or from the house of Aaron. Nor is his descent counted at all. Nothing is given in the type of his entrance or exit. In the type he stands at once before Abraham a king and a priest, and is recognized as such by the patriarch; but nothing is said of whence he came, or whither he went. The type is perfect and complete; but it would be marred if his descent or demise were grouped into the type. All we have to do with Melchisedec is as a type, and therefore his descent is not given. Without father, not as a man, for he could not be a man if he had never had a father or mother; but he could be a man without having either father or mother embraced in the figure. It is not as a man this description of him is given, but it is of the peculiar order of his priesthood the apostle writes. He did not inherit his priesthood, as the sons of Aaron did, by being of priestly parentage; nor was his priesthood to descend from him, like that of the order of Aaron, to his sons, if he had any. It began with him, and revelation closes on this subject, leaving the priesthood not transmissible. This is one important particular in which the two orders of priesthood differed; that of Aaron and his sons necessarily required succession; while that of Melchisedec admitted of no succession.
While therefore the priesthood of our great Redeemer was foreshadowed in many particulars, and as far as it extended, by the Levitical priesthood: yet as our Lord was not of that tribe, and by the Levitical order was ineligible to the office; “For [says the apostle] it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident; for that after the similitude of Melchisedec, there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life (Hebrews 7:14-16.)”
There is something exceedingly beautiful in what is signified by the order of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec (Psalm 110:4).” This order sets forth the spiritual government of Christ, as the supreme head over all things to his church. As Melchisedec was the king of Salem, the signification of which name is peace, so that the king of Salem is the King of Peace. And in order to establish that peace over which he was to preside, he must bring in everlasting righteousness, and reconcile his subjects to God by his priesthood; so the apostle gives precedence to this interpretation; explaining the type to signify first, king of righteousness, and after that - after having canceled all demands of the law and justice - after having put away, and made an end of sin, and being of God made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption, he ascends his Mediatorial throne, reigns in righteousness, as King of Peace. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:7).” This royal priesthood he holds, and this righteous sceptre he sways, not by the law of a carnal commandment, as that law under which the order of Aaron’s priesthood was established, but by the power of an endless life. By the power of his own immortality; by the law of the spirit of life; an endless life. “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 7:24,25).” Now Christ himself was not without father, or without mother, either as the Son of God, nor as the Son of man; but as the Priest unto the Most High God, and as the King of Righteousness, he is without descent, without father or mother, without predecessor or successor, without beginning of days, or end of life. He did not inherit either his priesthood or his throne from any progenitor, nor will he ever transmit it to another. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus (Hebrews 3:1).” “For such a High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. Who needeth not daily, as those high priests of the order of Aaron, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this he did once when he offered up himself (Hebrews 7:26,27).”
The other text on which our sister desires our views is John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” In the instructions which our Lord gave to his disciples, he used many parables, or figures, some of which they seemed readily to comprehend, and understand; others were obscure, and required explanation. But he told them that unto them it was given to know the things of the kingdom, while to those without, all these things were in parables. It had long been foretold in prophecy that “He would open his mouth in parables, and utter dark sayings.” The time and occasion when these words were spoken by our Lord to his disciples were most awfully solemn and trying. The dreadful hour of his sufferings had come. The last valid Passover had been celebrated, the solemn sacramental supper, which was to perpetuate the remembrance of that agonizing hour, had been eaten; Judas had gone out to betray his Lord; deep waters had come into his soul, and billows of distress and anguish overwhelmed the suffering Lamb of God. His soul must now be poured out unto death, for the redemption of his people. His dear disciples were about to be scattered. Their faith and confidence in him, as the true Messiah, was now to be severely shaken. He who in their presence had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, restored the halt and the lame, cast out devils, raised the dead, hushed to silence the tempest, and subdued the frightful billows of the mighty deep, was now to be delivered up for our offenses, to be arrested, and led like a lamb to the slaughter, and stand like a sheep before its shearers, passive and silent. He who had bowed the heavens and come down to give life to the world was now himself to bow his awful head in death. As the time drew near, the lowering cloud still gathered blackness, the Savior knew full well what dreadful fear would assail the faith of his timid and trembling disciples; and to nerve them for the conflict, spake these words of comfort and encouragement to allay their fears. How soothing were his words! “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Just as certainly as their faith in Eternal Deity was well founded, their confidence and faith in him, as the Son of God, and Mediatorial Head of the church was sure, notwithstanding all they should witness of his sufferings and death. And so far as related to their hope for a safe abode for themselves, he assures them that ample provision is made. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. Three important considerations are here presented. The house, its many mansions, and the comfort this assurance should inspire in their heart. The house of God is frequently spoken of in the Scriptures, and is often referred to by our Redeemer as his Father’s house. By it we understand the dwelling place of God, the place of his abode. We are told in the Scriptures by God himself that he dwelleth not in temples made with hands; that men cannot build a house for him; that his is a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. His sanctuary is the place where his honor dwelleth. In the hundred and thirty-second Psalm, this house of God is figuratively thus presented: “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” The tabernacle in the wilderness, and the temples in Jerusalem were figures of the house of God, the true tabernacle which God hath pitched, and not men. As the house of God is not made with hands, so neither is it made of earthly materials. The psalmist says, “His foundation is in the holy mountains.” “In Salem (peace) also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.” “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness, Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is mount Zion; on the sides of the North, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces, for a refuge.” “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.” The apostle Paul says to the saints at Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).” And Peter also says, to the elect of God, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5,6).” The church of God is called the house of God, first, because it is his workmanship, and not made with hands. Secondly, because he dwells in it. Thirdly, because it contains mansions for all his children, for all who are of the household of God. Fourthly, because he presides over it, defends, provides for, and makes it none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven, to them who are made nigh by the blood of Christ and caused to enter into it.
The mansions of this house or church are very many, affording ample and appropriate room for all the members of the family who belong to the household. This is true if applied to the church of God in her numerous branches. It is the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High, including all places where God has recorded his name, and promised to come unto them and bless them. The figure may also be applied to all the individual members of his family, as each has a mansion or residence in the house of God. But in the more immediate sense in which the figure is used in this text, it seems to indicate a variety of states or conditions in the experience of the inmates of the house, as passing from one apartment of the house to another. Remember, this house is eternal in the heavens, all the children had their immortal life in God, hidden with Christ in God from everlasting. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:1,2).” This life which was with the Father was given to them in his Son, and in him as the “secret place of the Most High, they had a mansion, in which they dwelt, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. See Psalm 91:1. As the temple and the tabernacle in the wilderness were typical of the house of God, they had their various mansions, or apartments. The place for the priests and Levites - for the congregation, and the most holy place; the place also for the altar and the sacrifices, for the tithes and offerings, for the ark and the mercy seat, etc. So the church has sojourned with her great High Priest under the law, and upon the altar, in his death and in his resurrection. Raised up from the dead with him, and are partakers of his resurrection life, with him they sit in all the heavenly places, or mansions of his church, in her gospel organization. Under the legal dispensation they sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit, even then, was sweet to their taste. But there were heavenly, or gospel, mansions in the house of God prepared for them, as it is testified. “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” The many mansions, in our text, and the heavenly (or gospel) places in Christ Jesus, in which the redeemed children sit, we understand to mean the same.
This was an important matter for the disciples to know, at that most solemn hour, in which he was to (not leave his Father’s house, but pass to another mansion of it) die upon the cross, be buried in the earth, arise from the dead, ascend to the mansions or the upper regions of his Father’s house, and be seen no more in the legal places, no more in the flesh, no more to suffer, bleed or die, but ascend his Mediatorial throne, set up and organize his gospel kingdom, gather into it all the subjects of his grace, and reign with, and over, and in them forever more.
All the mansions were already in the house. If any had been lacking, he would have told his disciples. Especially if he depended on them, or on their successors, to enlarge his kingdom, by their devices or by their industry, he would have told them; he would have given them to understand what part of the house they were to build, and what mansions to make ready. His Father’s house will neither admit of enlargement nor improvement, for it is eternal in the heavens, and nothing new could be eternal.
“I go to prepare a place for you.” The place, the mansions, to which he was then going already existed in his Father’s house; but to prepare the heavenly places, the gospel mansions, for redeemed sinners to occupy, he their great High Priest, with his own blood, must, through the eternal Spirit, enter, not into a holy place made with hands, but into heaven itself, receive his kingdom and his coronation from his Father and their Father, from his God, and from their God, and then return to them again.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” He had come to them in their low estate, under the law, in the legal places, or mansions of the worldly sanctuary; but there were other, brighter, better, and more heavenly mansions for them, thereafter, with him to inherit. To prepare those blessed blissful mansions of joy, which were set before them, he must endure the cross, despise the shame, and remove all legal obstructions out of the way; make an end of sin, abolish death, and bring life and immortality to light. He only could open the gates of life; to him alone could the everlasting doors lift up their heads, and his entrance alone could prepare the gospel mansions for “the righteous nation which keepeth the truth to enter in.” He has entered in, and he has come again to his disciples, by his spirit, and received them to himself, to dwell with them in mansions of unfading glory forever and ever. The many mansions are not to separate or keep the saints apart, for Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact. The church as the body of Christ has many members, yet but one body; an appropriate place for every member, and a member for every place, and his members are the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
December 15, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 314 – 322