The Sanctuary 
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

21 – Christ our High Priest

Hebrews 8:1-6:

Now the main point of what we are saying is this:  We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.  Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.  If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.  They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle:  “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

We have discovered in past studies that the courtyard of the wilderness sanctuary was 100 cubits by 50 cubits and consisted of two squares.  Everything that took place in the eastern square represented the earthly mission of our Lord Jesus Christ — His birth, His life, and His death.  The western square, which housed the two-roomed apartment tabernacle, represented the heavenly ministry of Christ.  These two ministries — the earthly mission and the heavenly ministry combined — are what the plan of salvation is all about.  We have spent some time studying the eastern square details.

It is impossible to cover a study of the sanctuary without touching the subject of Christ our High Priest.  I hope that by this time you will realize why we need a high priest, and that with Paul we can say, “Thank God we have such a High Priest as Jesus Christ.”

The word “priest” is a common word.  We have it in all pagan religions, the Roman Catholic Church has priests, we have priests in the earthly sanctuary.  Of course, we have Christ as our High Priest.  What does the word “priest” mean?  “Priest” means a person who represents the people before God.  A prophet is a person who represents God to the people.

Why do we need a representative?  Why do we need somebody to appear before God for us?  The reason is very simple.  God is holy and we are sinners.  Sinful men cannot approach a holy God, so we need a priest, a mediator, a go-between.  Christ is that priest.  In Hebrews 8:1:

Now the main point of what we are saying is this:  We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven....

Paul is concluding here in Hebrews 8:1-6 what he has been discussing in detail from Hebrews 5.  What he is doing here is simply summing up the facts, the truth about Christ our High Priest.  We need to understand certain things about Christ our High Priest to appreciate the fact of His priesthood.  To do that, we need to read from Hebrews 5.  The writer gives us four qualifications.  For Christ to be our High Priest — or for any person to be our high priest — he has to meet four qualifications.  It is important that we understand these qualifications because it is these that make the priesthood of Christ meaningful to us as sinners.

1.  Qualification number one is found in Hebrews 5:1:

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

The first qualification is that a high priest has to be one of the people whom he represents.  He is to be taken from among his fellow men in order to represent his fellow men.  When my wife and I took out our American citizenship in 1975 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the ladies said something to me that she thought was bad news for me.  She said, “By the way, I want you to know that you can never be the president of the United States.”  I asked, “Why?”  She said, “Because no naturalized American can be the president.”  I could see the point.  Can you imagine how an enemy could come to this country, live five years, and, if he was smart enough to become the president, use his position to ruin this country?

To qualify to be our High Priest, Christ had to be one of us.  That is one of the reasons why He took our humanity.  He took it not only to be our Savior but to qualify to be our High Priest.  See Hebrews 2:14-18:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Just as we are human, He became human; He became a man in order to be our Savior.  He became one of this human race, the same race that Abraham came from.  Verses 14-15 say He became a man to be our Savior.  Verse 17:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

In order to be our Savior, He had to become a man.  In order to be our High Priest, He had to become a man.  He had to be one of us.

Today in our church there is an argument on the humanity of Christ.  If you separate the humanity of Christ from the humanity that needs redeeming, you disqualify Christ for being our High Priest.  The same is true for being our Savior.  He has to be from among the people He came to save.  That is qualification number one.

2.  For qualification number two, we read in Hebrews 5:1, the second half:

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

So number one the high priest had to be one of the people he represented.  Remember a priest is one who represents the people before God.  He has to be one of them that he represents.  That was also true of the prophet who represents God to the people.  As priest and Savior, He represents us towards God.  He was both God and man.  As God, He was the perfect prophet.  He could really represent God but, as man, He could represent us.

The second qualification says that the priest must be able to offer two things:

  1. Gifts, and
  2. Sacrifices for sin.

What is the gift that Jesus offers to the Father on our behalf?  In the earthly sanctuary, the gifts were many things.  Mainly it was a spotless lamb.  It was, of course, other things, too.  What is the gift that Jesus presents before God on our behalf?  The answer is found in Romans 5:17:

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

So the gift that Jesus is offering to God on our behalf is His righteousness because we have no righteousness of our own.  What we have is filthy rags.  Isaiah 64:6:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God made Christ to be sin for us.  Even though He knew no sin, God made Christ to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God.  When we have the righteousness of God, we have a perfect righteousness.  The righteousness of God cannot be improved.  When Jesus stands before God to represent us, He doesn’t offer to God our righteousness, but He offers to God His righteousness on our behalf.  That is good news.

So number one, He is one of us, and number two, He offers up gifts.  Unfortunately, the righteousness that He offers up for us cannot cancel our sin.  Therefore, He didn’t only offer up the gift of righteousness, He also offered up His blood, His sacrifice, which is for our sins.  Remember, the priest has to offer up both gifts and sacrifices.  The gift He offers is His righteousness on our behalf — the doing of Christ.  The sacrifice He offers is not the blood of bulls or goats or sheep but His own blood, which is shed for the remission of our sins.  Hebrews 9:24-26:

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands [The heavenly sanctuary was not made by man.] that was only a copy of the true one [the earthly was a type of the heavenly]; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

This verse is talking about Christ as our High Priest.  He is representing us before God.

He is contrasting the earthly priesthood ministry with the ministry of Christ.  The earthly priest brought sacrifices daily plus yearly before God.  Here he is dealing with the yearly because, in the yearly, he came into the very presence of God.  He came every year because the blood of bulls and of goats could not remove sin.  Jesus doesn’t come to God every year.  He came to Him only once (He is speaking with God all the time but He came only once) because His sacrifice was perfect.

Verse 26:

Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

In other words, the sacrifice of Christ takes care of our sins, the righteousness of Christ takes care of the positive demands of the law.

The law demands two things from a sinner:  (1) positive obedience, because the law says that he who obeys shall live, but (2) it also says that he who disobeys shall die.  We have disobeyed and we do not have any righteousness of our own.  In Christ, we have both; therefore, when Christ offers up gifts — His righteousness, and sacrifice, His blood — on our behalf, we have a perfect priest who represents us.

3.  For the third qualification, we go to Hebrews 5:2:

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

Qualification number one, He has to be one of us.

Number two, He must be able to offer gifts and sacrifices that are acceptable to God.  The animal sacrifices were not acceptable.  Hebrews 10:8:

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” — though they were offered in accordance with the law.

But the offering of Jesus Christ’s righteousness and His sacrifice is acceptable.

Number three, a priest must be somebody who can have compassion on the ignorant and on the people who have gone out of the way.  What does it mean to be ignorant?  Ignorant of what?  There are some people today who will say, “Well, that applied to the people of Paul’s day because they were ignorant.”  No, he is not talking of academic knowledge here.  What did he mean that Christ is a priest of those who are ignorant?

Turn to Romans 10.  Is it possible that you may belong to this group although you are a church member?  It is possible because Paul is talking to people who claim to be the children of God.  Romans 10:1:

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

Remember that Israel was God’s covenant people.  They are the ones who boasted to have the truth.  Listen to what Paul is saying:  “My prayer for them is that they might be saved.”

We find their problem in verse two [Romans 10:2]:

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

They are very enthusiastic about serving God, there is no problem there — they fast twice a week, they pay tithe, they go to church.  But they are ignorant.  What are they ignorant about?  Verse three:

Since they did not know the righteousness of God [the gift of Jesus Christ] and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Then, are there people in the world today who are ignorant about God’s righteousness?  Yes.  I’ll go one step further.  Are there people in America — a so-called Christian country — who are ignorant about God’s righteousness?  Yes.  I’ll go even further.  Are there people in the Adventist Church who are ignorant of God’s righteousness?  I’m sorry to have to say, “Yes.”  But thank God we have a Priest who is pleading with the Father, “These are ignorant.  Please open their eyes.”  One of the things that God would like to offer you and me in the Laodicean Church is eyesalve, that we may see.  We may see three things:  that we are blind, naked, and miserable.  We need to buy from God His white robe that He offers as a gift.

Christ is a High Priest who is concerned not only about the believer but about the unbeliever who is ignorant about the good news.  The High Priest wants to work through you because we have a High Priest who is not condemning the unbeliever but who is pleading that they should be brought to the knowledge of the truth.

If you young people are wondering why Christ hasn’t come....  You know, when you are young and you are raised in the Adventist Church, you have a question.  It’s a very good question because your father and your grandfather have been preaching to you that Christ is coming soon.  The question you are asking is, “How soon is soon?”  I’ll tell you the reason why Christ hasn’t come is because our High Priest desires that none should perish.  He wants the ignorant to come to the knowledge of the truth and the reason they haven’t come is because we have failed to do the job.

But He is not only a High Priest who has compassion on the ignorant, but He also is High Priest who has compassion on those who have gone out of the way.  Who are these people who have gone out of the way?  It’s we believers who have fallen.  Do you make mistakes?  Do you fall?  We have a High Priest.  Please read 1 John 2:1:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin [present, continuous tense — that you may not keep on sinning].  But if anybody does sin [aorist tense — not because you want to but because you fall into sin], we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

The gospel doesn’t condone sin but God knows that we are still sinful human beings.  He knows that we have struggles and that we have a Priest who has compassion on us, who understands our problems.  That is something that I want to know.  Look at Hebrews 2:18:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

We have a High Priest who knows our struggles because He is one of us.  He knows our weaknesses because He assumed our infirmities.  I don’t mean simply physical infirmities.  I mean He assumed our moral infirmities.  He understood our struggles.  He understood the battle against self.  For all of His life, He fought against self.  The New Testament brings it out clearly.  He was tempted.  Hebrews 4:14-15:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.

He had the struggle that you have.  There is only one difference.  He overcame.  He committed no sin.  I thank God that He did not commit any sin because now He can offer His righteousness to God on our behalf.  But He can sympathize with our struggles.  He understands what we are going through, because He has the nature that we have.  That’s the kind of priest I want — one who can sympathize with me and understand my problems and my difficulties.  That is qualification number three.  He has compassion.

It is hard for us to have compassion unless we understand what another is going through.  I may not go through the same temptation that you are having, but I am going through the same struggle.  We are all struggling with temptation.  I can sympathize with you because I know what it means to be tempted, and to struggle against the flesh.  Thank God we have a Priest who has compassion.

When I was a Catholic and I used to go to my human priest, I learned what it means.  We had two kinds of priests in the Roman Catholic Church.  We had the good one who was very kind and compassionate and gave us short penance.  We also had the hard one, the tough one, who gave us long sentences and was always coming down on us.  Every time I went to confession I would ask my friends which priest was in each confession booth.  We couldn’t see them in their confession box.  I would say to my friends, “Who is in this box and who is in that box?”  When I found out that the kind one was in this box, that’s where I would go because I wanted a short penance.  But when I come to Christ, I know I have a priest who is compassionate.  I thank God He doesn’t give me penance.  He simply says, “Jack, I died for you.  Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  I like such a priest.

I hope you realize that we have a priest who can sympathize with you and who understands your struggle.  We must never put Christ up there on a pedestal as one who doesn’t understand us.  In the mission field, missionaries have great difficulty understanding the nationals and the nationals have great difficulty understanding the missionaries.  We were always fighting and misunderstanding each other.  But I thank God I have a priest who understands me and who understands you and has compassion.

I would say to you older folks, please don’t say to the young people, “When I was your age I never did those things.”  Please don’t say that, because you never were living as a young person in this age.  Remember that sin has multiplied.  The devil has come with much more power and much more anger because he knows his time is short.  You and I, speaking to my age group, never faced the temptations that our young people are facing today.  Let us sympathize with them.  Let us help them.  Let us understand what they are going through.  Young people, if we older people don’t sympathize with you, remember:  Jesus does.  We have a High Priest who sympathizes with you.

4.  Hebrews 5:4:

And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

In other words, you can’t be a self-appointed high priest.  Being a high priest is not like being the president of the United States.  To be a president you have to campaign for yourself.  God appointed Aaron to be the earthly priest, only as a type.  But it is Christ that God has appointed to be our High Priest as the reality.  For I read in Hebrews 5:5-6:

In the same way [just as Aaron was appointed by God to be a priest], Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest.  But God said to him, “You are my Son [that’s what the word “begotten” means in the Greek]; today I have become your Father.”  And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

“Forever” means as long as we sinners need a priest, Christ is there to back us up, to sympathize with us, to help us in a time of need.  Jesus served God for 33 years, and that’s a long time.  In this country, 30 years of service qualifies you for sustentation (a pension).  God did not say, “Son, you served me wonderfully on earth in your earthly mission; now have sustentation.”  God did not do that to His Son.  God said, “Son, you have done a wonderful work on earth, a perfect work as far as your earthly mission is concerned, but I have another job for you — High Priest for as long as there are sinners in this world who are ignorant, who need you and who are going out of the way.”

Did Jesus say, “That’s too much?”  No, he said, “I will be more than happy to be their High Priest as long as they need me.”  So Jesus Christ was ordained by God to be our High Priest as long as we are living this side of probation.  Thank God for that!  He is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  In Hebrews 5:7 we read:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Verses 8-10:

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Forever and ever, as long as we need Him.  Hebrews 8:1:

Now the main point of what we are saying is this:  We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven....

“Such a High Priest” means:

  1. One who is one with us.
  2. One who is able to offer perfect gifts and perfect sacrifices.
  3. One who is able to have compassion on us.
  4. One who is appointed by God.

Such a High Priest who is at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man.  For every high priest is ordained by God to offer gifts and sacrifices.  So it is of necessity this man has something also to offer.  Jesus went to heaven not to offer up spotless animals and animal blood.  He went up to heaven to offer His righteousness and His sacrifices, His blood.  That’s what verses four and five are saying.  The earthly priest had to offer sacrifices and gifts.

Now look at verse six [Hebrews 8:6]:

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

“Superior” because the earthly priest’s ministry was not superior.  There was a repetition but now we have a superior ministry,

...as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

The earthly priests offered up their services under the old covenant.  Christ’s priesthood is under the New Covenant.  We are told in this passage that because the New Covenant is based on a better promise, it is different and better than the Old Covenant.  In the old covenant, God gave the law; man did the promising.  In the old covenant, man is the one who promised God.  Exodus 24:3

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.”

In the new covenant, it is the same law, for the measuring stick of God is the law, but the promises are not from men but from God.  That is a better promise.  We see what was wrong with men’s promise in verse seven [Hebrews 8:7]:

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

There was a fault in the first covenant — not in the law but in the promise of the people.  Verse 8:

But God found fault with the people [the people who made the promise] and said:  “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.”

The new covenant is that God makes the promise and He kept the promise.  Christ produced righteousness for us.  He was made sin for us that we might be made God’s righteousness in Him.  He offered a perfect sacrifice.  We have a perfect Priest who represents us before God; therefore, don’t let the devil put you on guilt trips.  Don’t let the devil say to you, “You are not good enough to be saved.”  Remember, we have a priest whose gift was accepted by God because it was perfect and whose sacrifice is acceptable to God because it met the justice of the law.  So we have a better covenant because we have a better High Priest.

I want to offer you Jesus Christ as our High Priest.  We have such a High Priest who has gone to heaven and is at the right hand of God.  He is going to serve us.  His mission is going to continue until He has put all enemies under His footstool.  We need both.  We thank God that we have a perfect Saviour and we thank God that we also have a perfect High Priest.

If God be for us, who can be against us?  I present to you this moment Jesus Christ, not only as your Saviour but as your perfect High Priest.  You may enjoy your life without feeling guilty and lost.  May God help us all that we may realize that the salvation and the redemption we have in Christ is perfect and complete.


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