One of the biggest changes in the New Covenant was Jesus becoming the High Priest for Christians today. In this post, learn how Jesus became the High Priest, how it changed the New Covenant, and what this means for us Christians today!
One of the biggest changes in the New Covenant is the change in the office of the High Priest. This change has been thoroughly explained in the book of Hebrews.
The problem with so many Christians today is that they equate the change in the priesthood as the change of the law of God. They assume that since Yahshua or Jesus Christ has already been our High Priest, the expectations for Christians today have also been changed.
Rather than obeying God’s commandments, people believe that they can now simply love one another and disregard what God has said in His laws.
So, in this post, let us rightly understand the huge significance of Yahshua becoming our High Priest.
From Moses to Jesus of the New Covenant
For many Christians today, we might not know the great and stellar status of Moses for first-century Jews. Even now, Moses is highly regarded in the religion of Judaism.
Moses was a great leader in the time of Ancient Israel. Upon his death, if it wasn’t for God, the Israelites had already lost hope of entering the Land of Promise. The Israelites were so discouraged that God needed to repeatedly say, “Be strong and of good courage” in the first chapter of the book of Joshua.
During the time of Christ’s human existence, a lot of His detractors would use Moses as their top model of righteousness. They would even go as far as relying on Moses for salvation!
As you can read in the first five books of the Bible, you will see that Moses served as the mediator between God and man. Under the Old Covenant or Sinaitic Covenant, it was Moses who directly communicated with God and passed on His messages to His people.
This is the main reason that Paul, traditionally known to be the writer of Hebrews, needed to include Moses in his discussion. Because the Jews admired Moses so much, they had a hard time accepting Yahshua as the new High Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant!
Notice what the author of Hebrews said in 3:1-3:
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
You and I might not know the great importance of first addressing this issue because we are not part of the first-century Jews. You see, for the Jews, they are looking forward to the appearance of the Messiah and the Prophet prophesied in Deuteronomy 8:15.
The problem was that they were expecting the Messiah to be a great military leader who will liberate them from the Romans. They were expecting a conquering King who would overturn the Roman Empire and bring back the glorious days of the Jews.
Because they expected something different, the majority of the Jews missed the first coming of the Messiah. When the Apostles later preached Christ, to them, it has been a stumbling block (I Corinthians 1:23).
Jesus is the Messiah and High Priest
To help the Jews recognize Yahshua as the new Mediator and High Priest of the New Covenant, Paul used the scripture.
First, Paul mentioned that Yahshua isn’t just the Son of David, but also the Son of God. For the Jews, they know that the Messiah will come from the lineage of David, but they have a limited view of the Messiah as the Son of God.
We read in Hebrews 1:5:
For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?
These are direct quotes from the book of Psalms. Paul goes on to say in Psalm 1:8-9:
But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
The phrase “has anointed You” is a reference to the Hebrew word Messiah, the Anointed One. The equivalent Greek word here is Christos where we get the English word, Christ.
As you can see, Paul here was effectively proving that, indeed, Yahshua is the Messiah!
Sadly, the Jews made a dogmatic claim that the Messiah will come as a conquering general NOT a baby in the manger.
God has a different and far BETTER plan.
The main focus of the first coming of Yahshua was to die for our sins and become the Savior of mankind. Through His death, salvation was made available not only to the Jews but also to the people who are not part of physical Israel.
From temple worship to spiritual worship in the New Covenant
In Hebrews 3:1-6, God’s house was mentioned. For the Jews, God’s house was the temple. All worship of God was done in the temple, making Judaism a temple-based religion.
However, because the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, Judaism’s temple worship fell apart. Instead of worship focused on the temple, they have decentralized their worship into the synagogues.
Now, this is part of God’s plan to make a point that worshiping Him will not be limited to the temple anymore. Because there’s no more temple, the human high priest can no longer perform his viable duty.
Now, comes our NEW High Priest — Yahshua.
The qualifications of the far more superior High Priest
The high priest played a vital role in the worship of God. Under the Old Covenant, it is only the high priest who was given the privilege to enter the Holy of Holies every year during the Day of Atonement. He did this to atone for his sin and the sin of the nation of Israel through animal sacrifice.
However, the Old Covenant and the animal sacrificial and ritualistic approach in the worship of God were never meant to last forever. The destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 was the final act of putting a stop to the temple-based worship.
This is where the importance of Yahshua serving as our High Priest under the New Covenant comes in.
Yahshua does not come according to the order of Aaron but according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:11).
This is an important point to make.
Because you can’t easily change the Levitical priesthood. If you’re going to change it, the priesthood that will replace it MUST be more superior than what is being replaced.
So, the next question we need to ask is, “What is the order of Melchizedek?”
In Genesis 14:18-19, you will see that Melchizedek already served as a priest of God even way before the establishment of the Levitical priesthood.
Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Remember, in most cases, you can only be blessed by someone who is greater than you. So, in this case, Melchizedek was GREATER than Abraham. Since the tribe of Levites descended from Abraham, then it follows that Melchizedek is GREATER than the Levitical priesthood.
Therefore, even if Yahshua wasn’t born in the tribe of Levi, He is still spiritually legitimate to take on the new role of the High Priest!
Changes in the law, not removal of the law
This brings us to the most controversial topic of this post. A lot of Christians use the change in the priesthood as proof that we are no longer required to keep the law.
We read in Hebrews 7:12:
“For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
Please note that since there’s a change in the priesthood, it is necessary to modify parts of the law that concerns the priesthood. This is done to accommodate Yahshua serving as the New High Priest.
However, please note that CHANGING the law does not necessarily mean ABOLISHING the whole law. This is an important note to keep in mind as you read through the book of Hebrews.
The only changes made in the law were the ones necessary to accommodate the changes to the priesthood.
Here are the changes:
- The change from the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Yahshua.
- The change from the human high priest to Yahshua as the high priest.
- The change from having a mortal high priest to a new and permanent High Priest.
- The change from the physical temple to our body and the church as the Temple of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- The change from offering animals to the ultimate sacrifice made by Yahshua.
As you can see, it is essential to change some aspects of the law to support the new and better Covenant. But don’t think that amending certain items in the law of God automatically means you’re entirely abolishing the whole law!
Notice as well that Paul’s discussion of the law was only limited to temporary and ceremonial aspects of the law. It didn’t suggest that the law of God, the ones that define righteousness and sin, were ever changed.
New Covenant, New High Priest, New Emphasis
The Old Covenant, along with its temple worship system, was never meant to be permanent. The priests and animal sacrifices were only symbolic of the things that Yahshua would later fulfill to usher in the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant’s emphasis was on the physical temple. Today, the New Covenant’s main emphasis was to change the hearts and minds of people instead of focusing on performing various ceremonies and rituals.
As Hebrews 9:10 says, the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Covenant were “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”
Now, the time of reformation has come. It began when Yahshua became the Messiah.
There’s no need for the temple rituals anymore because they are “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things” (Hebrews 10:1). The same verse continues that these rituals made every year “can never… make those who approach perfect.”
Paul described the temple rituals and ceremonies as a “shadow.” What does this mean?
It means that it foreshadowed the role that Christ will play in the future. Shadows can only show us the outline of something but not its details.
That’s exactly what temple rituals showed to the people of Israel. They only have a limited idea of what the animal sacrifices were all about. Now that Yahshua came, the symbolic meaning of the rituals have been fulfilled and explained.
The significance of having Jesus as our High Priest
Did you know that with Yahshua as our High Priest, we now have a better way of communicating with God?
In the past, the high priest was a human being. As important as the role of a high priest is, its role is still being played by an imperfect, mortal being. That’s why the high priest didn’t only atone for the sins of the people of Israel, but he also must atone for his own sins.
With Yahshua as our High Priest, there’s no need for animal sacrifices and temple rituals or ceremonies. The best thing about this is that Yahshua is a spiritual Being. Unlike the human high priest, Christ can help every single human being in a PERSONAL LEVEL without being limited by time, space, and time!
Yahshua (Jesus Christ) is both the mediator and High Priest of the New Covenant. Notice this:
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Yahshua isn’t just a divine being but He is actually a God who took the form of a man to experience what it is like to be a human being!
Hebrews 2:17-18 tells us:
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a MERCIFUL and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Christ has experienced what we have experienced. He knows what it feels like, at the human level, to be happy and sad, to be full and hungry, and to be comfortable and in pain. He has experienced the full extent of every temptation possible!
Yet, He was without sin.
Because of this, Paul said that we can now boldly come to the throne of grace because we now have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness.
The Apostle John added in I John 2:1-2:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Yahshua has become our advocate. He intercedes and pleads for us.
This should encourage us in every day we fight our spiritual battles and overcome our weaknesses.
Moving forward in our Christian walk
As you can see, the New Covenant changed the priesthood, but it didn’t change the law of God that defines sins and righteousness.
In the book of Hebrews, we read in the eleventh chapter how the men and women of God struggled against sin and endured until the end.
We can also be part of the Hebrews 11 list of heroes of faith. How do we do that? We read:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
This only proves that receiving and believing in Christ isn’t enough for us to be counted worthy of our calling. We must still avoid sin that is defined in the law of God. If the law of God was already removed, how can we know sin?
Obviously, the New Covenant still demands the application of God’s law in our daily lives. Our faith can only become a living faith when we apply the things we learn and not let it stay in our heads.
With Yahshua as our Mediator and High Priest and the Holy Spirit made available to the people of God, entrance to His Kingdom is now possible. Let us then move forward knowing that we now have all the help that we need to receive eternal life!