Priests for Ten Centuries with No Scheming Priestcraft
1, 2. (a) Why have the priests of historical record so mistreated the people? (b) When was a contrast shown at Lystra between the Grecian god Zeus and the living God of the Jews?
HUMAN history is full of the records of priests, from the earliest times. Why mankind has been so misled, deceived, exploited and oppressed by priests is that the vast majority of these have not been priests of the one living and true God. This very fact was called to the attention of a priest who served the supreme god of the pagan Greeks nineteen hundred years ago. In what way?
2 This occurred about 47-48 C.E., in the city of Lystra, in the Roman province of Lycaonia, Asia Minor. The inhabitants of this city worshiped the god whom the Romans called Jupiter but whom the Greeks called Zeus. A glaring contrast came to be shown between the deity Zeus or Jupiter and the one living and true God, when two men preaching the kingdom of God came to the city. One of these men was Paul, who years previously had belonged to the Jewish sect of the Pharisees, and the other was Barnabas, who had been a Levite attached to the temple at Jerusalem. What now happened we shall let the medical doctor Luke relate to us:
3. What miraculous cure at Lystra caused the priest of Zeus there to want to offer sacrifice?
3 “Now in Lystra there was sitting a certain man disabled in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, and he had never walked at all. This man was listening to Paul speak, who, on looking at him intently and seeing he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice: ‘Stand up erect on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began walking. And the crowds, seeing what Paul had done, raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian tongue: ‘The gods have become like humans and have come down to us!’ And they went calling Barnabas Zeus, but Paul Hermes [Mercury], since he was the one taking the lead in speaking. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was before the city, brought bulls and garlands to the gates and was desiring to offer sacrifices with the crowds.
4. How did Barnabas and Paul prevent sacrificing from being made to them?
4 “However, when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they ripped their outer garments and leaped out into the crowd, crying out and saying: ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are humans having the same infirmities as you do, and are declaring the good news to you, for you to turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them. In the past generations he permitted all the nations to go on in their ways, although, indeed, he did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.’ And yet by saying these things they scarcely restrained the crowds from sacrificing to them.”—Acts 14:8-18, margin.
5. What later on showed how fickle religiously excited crowds are, and so what priestcraft continued on at Lystra?
5 Some of the people in Lystra became disciples of Jesus Christ and worshipers of the “living God,” but not the crowds of people in general. How fickle and unstable the religiously excited crowds are was shown by the fact that sometime later they permitted Jewish enemies of Christianity to persuade them to the point of stoning the miracle-working Paul, leaving him lying, as if dead, outside the city. Evidently the city priest of Zeus did not object, and the crowds of Lystra continued on worshiping Zeus and letting this priest of Zeus go on misleading and exploiting them. And the Jewish persecutors of Christianity were pleased to have it that way in Lystra.—Acts 14:19-22.
6. How does the record concerning Jesus’ trial and impalement prove that even priests of the living God can turn out bad?
6 According to the record, even Jewish priests in the service of the “living God” have turned out bad. For example, on that notorious Passover Day of 33 C.E., when the crowds were clamoring for the impalement of Jesus Christ and the Roman governor tried to restrain them, asking, “Shall I impale your king?” who were the ones leading in rejecting Jesus Christ as king of the Jews? The record says: “Pilate said to them: ‘Shall I impale your king?’ The chief priests answered: ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ At that time, therefore, he handed him over to them to be impaled.” (John 19:14-16) Later that day, when passersby were speaking abusively of Jesus while hanging nailed on the execution stake at Calvary, who were among those deriding him? The plain-speaking record tells us: “In like manner also the chief priests with the scribes and older men began making fun of him and saying: ‘Others he saved; himself he cannot save! He is King of Israel; let him now come down off the torture stake and we will believe on him. He has put his trust in God; let Him now rescue him if He wants him, for he said, “I am God’s Son.”’”—Matthew 27:39-43.
7. When Peter and John and later the twelve apostles were before the Jewish Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, what became evident regarding the relationship of the chief priests to God?
7 By the mention of “chief priests” is meant specifically Annas (who had been deposed from being high priest) and his son-in-law Caiaphas. (Luke 3:1, 2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:5, 6) When these chief priests and the rest of the Jerusalem Supreme Court (the Sanhedrin) commanded the Christian apostles Peter and John “nowhere to make any utterance or to teach upon the basis of the name of Jesus,” Peter and John said to those chief priests: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20) Sometime afterward all twelve apostles of Jesus Christ were before that same Jerusalem Supreme Court, and the high priest as the presiding officer heard these apostles say to him and all the rest of the Court: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) It was evident that those Jewish chief priests had ceased to serve the “living God.” They no longer represented Him.
8. What men with a record that runs parallel with that of those Jewish chief priests will be ruled out of the millennial priesthood with Christ?
8 In the face of such a Biblical record, it is not without parallel that the men bearing the title of “priest” in the religious systems of Christendom have made such an odious, despicable record for themselves, as religious and secular histories show. It would make a person shudder and become fearful if he thought that earthly priests like that were to be included among those of whom Revelation 20:6 says: “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” We are glad that the inspired Holy Scriptures rule such men out of fitness for the millennial priesthood with Jesus Christ in the heavens.
9. What does the Bible show as to whether all the Jewish priests were like those chief priests?
9 But, in all fairness, it must be said that not all the Jewish priests serving at the temple in Jerusalem turned out to be bad priests. The Bible record assures us of this after telling of how the then governing body of the Christian congregation straightened out a difficulty that had arisen in the Jerusalem congregation. Acts 6:7 goes on to say: “Consequently the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”
10. What happened to the temple job of the priests and Levites that believed in Jesus, and of what priesthood did they become members?
10 Of course, after getting baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, those priests of the family line of Aaron the brother of the prophet Moses gave up their jobs as priests at the temple in Jerusalem. In the same way Joseph Barnabas of Cyprus gave up his job as a Levite at the same temple. (Acts 4:36, 37) However, those ex-priests now became members of a grander priesthood. This was the “royal priesthood” of which the apostle Peter assured the Christians who had the heavenly hope, saying: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Peter 2:9; 1:3, 4.
11. Why was Jesus Christ not a human Jewish priest on earth, but after whose high priesthood was his true priesthood patterned?
11 Remarkably, though, no priesthood on earth furnished the High Priest of that “royal priesthood,” that “kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:6) Jesus Christ was indeed a Jew or Israelite according to the flesh, but he was not born in the family line of Aaron of the tribe of Levi, to which the Jewish priesthood was restricted. Being the “son of Mary,” Jesus was born into the royal family of David and hence into the tribe of Judah. “For it is quite plain that our Lord has sprung up out of Judah, a tribe about which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.” (Hebrews 7:14) So it cannot be said that Jesus Christ’s heavenly High Priesthood was based on his having been a human priest on earth. How he became a priest besides being a king we must examine here. However, his true priesthood was patterned after that of Jewish high priest Aaron.
THE VALUE OF A TRUE PRIEST OF THE “LIVING GOD”
12. According to Hebrews 5:1-3, of what value is a priest, anyhow?
12 Of what value is a priest, anyhow? Well, he does something that a mere king cannot do. Speaking, not of a valueless priesthood of a pagan god, but of the priesthood of the family of Aaron the Levite, Hebrews 5:1-3 says: “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in behalf of men over the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal moderately with the ignorant and erring ones since he also [like High Priest Aaron] is surrounded with his own weakness, and on its account he is obliged to make offerings for sins as much for himself as for the people.”
13. (a) When was there no need of a priest for mankind? (b) Why was Jesus able to become a high priest and offer up a sacrifice?
13 If there were no human sins against the “living God,” there would be no need of a priest, particularly a high priest. The perfect man Adam in the Garden of Eden needed no priest, for he was created sinless by Jehovah God, who is not the source of sin. (Genesis 2:7, 8; Ecclesiastes 7:29) Jesus Christ, who is called “the last Adam,” was born into a race of sinners, but he needed no priest, for he had a virgin birth through Mary and his life was direct from God. He was born sinless and grew up sinless and remained sinless down to his sacrificial death. (1 Corinthians 15:45-47; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21-24) Because of his sinlessness, he could become a high priest and offer a perfect sacrifice.
14, 15. (a) How did Jesus become a high priest—by his own decision to make himself such, or how? (b) By Jehovah’s resurrecting Jesus, how was Psalm 2:7 fulfilled, and how was Jesus then able to be a priest like Melchizedek?
14 Who made Jesus Christ a high priest, although he was of the royal tribe of Judah? Did he decide to make himself a high priest? No; he could not do that. This is explained for us in Hebrews 5:4-6, in these words: “Also, a man takes this honor, not of his own accord, but only when he is called by God, just as Aaron also was. So too the Christ did not glorify himself by becoming a high priest, but was glorified by him who spoke with reference to him: ‘You are my son; I, today, I have become your father.’ Just as he says also in another place: ‘You are a priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.’”
15 By resurrecting Jesus Christ from the dead, Almighty God fulfilled those words quoted from Psalm 2:7 as written by David, and thus God became an everlasting Father to the resurrected Jesus Christ, and this one, being raised incorruptible, became the everlasting Son of his heavenly Life-Giver, Jehovah God. Being now an incorruptible Son, he could be made a “priest forever” who needed no successor, and thus he would be a priest “according to the manner of Melchizedek!”—Acts 13:33-37; Psalm 110:4.
16. Who was this Melchizedek, and, according to the book of Genesis, how did he come onto the scene of history?
16 That mysterious historic figure Melchizedek—who was he? He was not a Hebrew. He was not an Israelite. He was not a Levite. He was not a Jew. Suddenly, somewhere between the years 1943 and 1933 B.C.E., he appears on the scene in the neighborhood of where Jerusalem is today. “Abram the Hebrew” met him there while on his way back from warfare to near where Hebron is today. Here is all that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us about this encounter: “Then the king of Sodom went out to meet him after he returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, to the Low Plain of Shaveh, that is, the king’s Low Plain. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was priest of the Most High God. Then he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, Who has delivered your oppressors into your hand!’ At that Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”—Genesis 14:17-20.
17. In what respects did Melchizedek foreshadow Jesus Christ as High Priest, and was Jesus the successor of Melchizedek?
17 This does not say who the human father of Melchizedek was, so that we could say that Melchizedek inherited his priesthood from this father. Neither does it tell us when Melchizedek died, so that we can say that his priesthood ended then. So his priesthood extended to an indefinite time. In agreement with this, no successor is reported for Melchizedek. In these respects he could be used to foreshadow the High Priest Jesus Christ. Or, Jesus Christ could be said to be a “priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek.” Jesus Christ did not get his priesthood from Melchizedek; he was not a priestly successor of Melchizedek. He was only in “manner” like that king-priest of Salem.
18. According to the name Melchizedek, what kind of priesthood will that of Jesus Christ be, and how does Hebrews 6:20 through 7:3 explain matters about Melchizedek?
18 Since the name Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness” and since Jesus Christ is in “manner” like him, this ensures that the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ for a thousand years will be a righteous priesthood without scheming, intriguing priestcraft. This is nicely explained for us in Hebrews 6:20 through 7:3, where we read: “Jesus who has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him and to whom Abraham apportioned a tenth from all things, is first of all, by translation, ‘King of Righteousness,’ and is then also king of Salem, that is, ‘King of Peace.’ In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, but having been made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.”
19. How was Melchizedek “made like the Son of God” in the matter of priesthood, and so on what did Jesus’ priesthood depend?
19 How was Melchizedek “made like the Son of God” or used as an illustration of Jesus Christ the Son of God? In that Jehovah God used Melchizedek as a pattern when speaking about an oath that He was going to make in behalf of his Son Jesus Christ. God inspired King David to say, in Psalm 110:1-4: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ . . . Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” So, as in the case of Melchizedek, the priesthood of Jesus Christ was not made to rest upon human descent and inheritance. He did not need to get his priesthood either through Melchizedek or through the priestly family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. Jesus’ priesthood rested upon the oath of Jehovah God and upon his being resurrected incorruptible from the dead to heavenly life at the right hand of God.
20, 21. (a) In behalf of dying mankind, why was there need of a change of priesthood, from that of Aaron to that like Melchizedek’s? (b) How is this stated in Hebrews 7:11-14?
20 The priesthood of the Levite family of Aaron was established by the Law that Jehovah God gave to the people of Israel through the mediator Moses at Mount Sinai, Arabia. But the family of Aaron, having inherited sin and imperfection from the transgressor Adam, did not and could not produce a perfect high priest; there was no priestly perfection produced by it. (Romans 5:12) So the situation of all mankind called for a change of priesthood from Jehovah God, a change from an imperfect, dying priesthood to a perfect, everlasting priesthood. So this called for a high priest like ancient Melchizedek. This is what is meant when Hebrews 7:11-14 says:
21 “If, then, perfection were really through the Levitical priesthood, (for with it [the Levitical priesthood] as a feature the people were given the Law,) what further need would there be for another priest to arise according to the manner of Melchizedek and not said to be according to the manner of Aaron? For since the priesthood is being changed, there comes to be of necessity a change also of the law. For the man [Jesus Christ] respecting whom these things are said has been a member of another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is quite plain that our Lord has sprung up out of Judah, a tribe about which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.”
22, 23. (a) In contrast with the Levitical high priest, how was Jesus made a high priest? (b) According to Hebrews 7:23-28, how can Jesus as high priest save completely those approaching God through him?
22 The Jewish high priest Aaron and his successors in office were not made priests with an oath sworn by Jehovah God. But Jesus Christ, without any priestly connections on earth, was made a high priest by God’s oath. His life was interrupted briefly by his dying as a perfect human sacrifice, but he was resurrected to heavenly life incorruptible to be a high priest forever like Melchizedek. The contrast between him and the Levitical priesthood of Aaron and his successors is set out in Hebrews 7:23-28, where we read:
23 “Furthermore, many [sons of Aaron] had to become priests in succession because of being prevented by death from continuing as such, but he [the Greater Melchizedek] because of continuing alive forever has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them. For such a high priest as this was suitable for us, loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners, and become higher than the heavens. He does not need daily, as those high priests do, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for those of the people: (for this he did once for all time when he offered himself up;) for the Law [of Moses] appoints men high priests having weakness, but the word of the sworn oath [of God] that came [more than four hundred years] after the Law appoints a Son, who is perfected forever.”
24. Jesus Christ is high priest at what kind of “holy place,” and for his priesthood during what period of time should mankind be thankful?
24 So what is the point being driven at here? This, as set out in the next two verses (Hebrews 8:1, 2), in this sum-up: “Now as to the things being discussed this is the main point: We have such a high priest as this, and he has sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a public servant of the holy place and of the true tent, which Jehovah put up, and not man.” Should not mankind, therefore, be most thankful to God that they will have such a High Priest as this approaching God and pleading for them during the assigned thousand years during which Satan the Devil and his demons will be bound and in the abyss? Yes! Truly such a provision of God ensures the very best for mankind.
25. Why did Jesus not serve as high priest at the temple in Jerusalem, and of what was the Jerusalem temple a type?
25 Jesus Christ, when on earth as a perfect man, never served as a public servant at the temple in Jerusalem. He was not authorized by the Law of Moses to do so, for he was not a Levite or of the priestly family of Aaron. However, he served at a higher holy place, at a higher or more important temple, that was not put up at Jerusalem by men such as King Herod the Great or Governor Zerubbabel or King Solomon. Those man-made temples, like the sacred tent of meeting that the prophet Moses set up, were merely typical, illustrative. (Exodus 40:1-33) There is no record that King Melchizedek built a temple in Salem and needed such a building to serve as “priest of the Most High God.” So nothing like that in connection with Melchizedek can be used as a type. But the Greater Melchizedek, Jesus Christ, serves as High Priest at the antitypical holy place and temple, namely, “the holy place and the true tent, which Jehovah put up.”
THE TRUE TEMPLE
26, 27. (a) Into what compartments were the sacred tent and the Jerusalem temple divided? (b) What were the pieces of furniture in the respective compartments of the tent and Solomon’s temple?
26 The sacred tent put up by Moses at Mount Sinai and the temples at Jerusalem had two compartments, the first compartment being called The Holy and the second or innermost compartment being called The Most Holy or Holy of Holies, the Holiest of all.
27 In the first compartment, The Holy, the pieces of furniture were the golden table for the presentation of the loaves commonly called “the showbread” and the golden lampstand with seven branches topped by lamps, and the stationary golden incense altar. Here in the light of the golden lampstand the high priest could arrange the loaves of presentation and offer fragrant incense at the altar. But in the innermost compartment or Most Holy there was, in the case of the tent pitched by Moses and the temple built by King Solomon, the sacred golden Ark of the Covenant, with its golden lid or cover surmounted by two golden cherubs facing each other with outstretched wings. The light in this innermost compartment or Most Holy was furnished by the miraculous light, called the Shekinah Light, that hovered above the propitiatory cover and between the two cherubs.
28. How did the Jewish high priest prepare matters for sprinkling the blood of the atonement sacrifices in the Most Holy, and for whose sins did he thus make atonement?
28 Before presenting the blood of the atonement sacrifices once each year on the Day of Atonement, the Aaronic high priest would take a portable incense burner or a hand censer and pass beyond the inner curtain that separated the first compartment from the innermost compartment (the Most Holy) and burn incense before the Ark of the Covenant in the illumination from the Shekinah Light. This would prepare matters for him to return later with the blood of the two atoning sacrifices and sprinkle this toward the propitiatory cover (the Mercy Seat) of the Ark of the Covenant. In this way he made atonement for the sins of himself and of his Levitical house or tribe and then for the sins of the people of Israel. This was the atonement procedure as outlined in the Law covenant of Moses.—Hebrews 9:1-10; Numbers 7:89.
29. (a) When was the sacred “tent” pitched by Moses inaugurated, and when also Solomon’s temple? (b) When was the true tent or temple brought into existence?
29 The sacred tent of meeting was set up by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai on the first day of the spring month Nisan of the year 1512 B.C.E. King Solomon completed his temple at Jerusalem in 1027 B.C.E. and thereafter dedicated it on the fifteenth day of the autumn month of Tishri of the year 1026 B.C.E. (1 Kings 8:1, 2, 65, 66) But when did the antitypical tent or temple, the “true tent” with its “holy place,” come into existence? It was while the typical temple built by King Herod the Great was still standing in Jerusalem. It was in the early autumn of the year 29 of our Common Era. How was this so? What happened then to call for the true temple?
30, 31. (a) On what occasion and how did the antitypical High Priest come into existence? (b) What antitypical day for taking sins away then began, and how did what Jesus offered compare with what Aaron offered?
30 In that year 29 C.E. the antitypical High Priest came into existence, and, like the Levite high priest Aaron, he had to have a sacred tent or temple at which to officiate. This antitypical sacrificing High Priest is the Lord Jesus, anointed with God’s holy spirit to be a spiritual high priest. This anointing with holy spirit came upon him after he was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. His thus becoming the Messiah or Anointed One at the age of thirty years occurred three and a half years before his sacrificial death for the sins of mankind. (Daniel 9:24, 25, 27; Luke 3:21-23) At this time the great antitypical Day of Atonement began, and Jesus Christ had something better than High Priest Aaron had on the typical atonement day back there in the year 1512 B.C.E., after the sacred tent or tabernacle had been set up. What was this? In Hebrews 8:3-6 and 9:11-14 we are told:
31 “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If, now, he were upon earth, he would not be a priest, there being men who offer the gifts according to the Law, but which men are rendering sacred service in a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things; just as Moses, when about to make the tent in completion, was given the divine command: For says he: ‘See that you make all things after their pattern that was shown to you in the mountain.’ But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent public service, so that he is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises.”
32. As typified in the case of Aaron, into what did Jesus Christ enter, and with what for cleansing our conscience from dead works?
32 “However, when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass, through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place [corresponding to the Most Holy of the tent] and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us. For if the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been defiled sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?”
33, 34. (a) By being immersed in the Jordan River, what did Jesus symbolize? (b) What had God prepared for the man Jesus, and why did he offer it, and how often?
33 So, when the perfect man Jesus became God’s anointed High Priest after his baptism in water, what was it that he had to offer to God in sacrifice? It was, not the body of some subhuman animal the blood of which could never wash human sins away, but his own perfect human body, which he had by reason of his birth by a virgin woman, Mary. He recognized that Almighty God had prepared and equipped him for this course of sacrifice. He recognized that at this marked time it was God’s will for him to undertake this course of self-sacrifice. Accordingly, when he came to John the Baptist to be immersed in the Jordan River, he came presenting himself to God to do the divine will from now on. His baptism in water symbolized his presenting of himself to do God’s will even to a sacrificial death. Concerning this, Hebrews 10:4-10 says:
34 “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away. Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.”’ After first saying: ‘You did not want nor did you approve of sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sin offering’—sacrifices that are offered according to the Law—then he actually says: ‘Look! I am come to do your will.’ He does away with what is first that he may establish what is second. By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”
35. (a) On the typical Atonement Day, what was applied to the altar, and what was offered thereon? (b) What was the antitypical “altar” for Jesus’ offering of himself?
35 On the ancient typical atonement day the high priest Aaron applied some of the blood of the atonement victims to the altar and also burned the fat of the atonement victims upon this altar, which was in the middle of the courtyard in front of the sacred tent of meeting. (Leviticus 16:16-19, 25) What, then, was the antitypical “altar” upon which Jesus Christ as a spiritual high priest offered up the sacrifice of his perfect humanity? It was not a material altar like that copper altar in the courtyard of the tent of meeting. It was not the execution stake upon which he hung till dead at Calvary, for that stake was something accursed and was not sanctified by his precious blood. (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; Galatians 3:13) Rather, it was something spiritual upon which Jesus Christ could offer up the value of his perfect human living body. It was the divine “will” or good pleasure. To do this “will” he came presenting himself. It was God’s willingness to accept now a human sacrifice instead of animal victims. So, on the basis of this divine “will,” Jesus offered the value of his human life.
36. Who are authorized to eat from this spiritual “altar,” and with what result to themselves?
36 Thus the antitypical “altar” came into existence, concerning which Hebrews 13:10 says to the anointed Christians: “We have an altar from which those who do sacred service at the tent have no authority to eat.” How materially minded and unscriptural it is, therefore, for certain priests of Christendom to erect a material “altar” in their church buildings or other place of worship and claim to offer up the sacrifice of Christ again and again, as in their celebration of the “Mass”! Those who have the authority to eat from the true spiritual “altar” are “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”
37. (a) Along with the spiritual “altar,” what came into existence as typified in connection with the ancient “tent”? (b) What did this courtyard typify in Jesus’ case?
37 Just as the ancient copper altar stood in the middle of the courtyard before the sacred tent of meeting, so along with the antitypical spiritual “altar” there came into existence the antitypical “courtyard.” This represents, not a locality or place, but a condition of a person on earth. Jesus Christ the anointed High Priest was in that antitypical courtyard because he was in the condition of a perfect human creature. His condition on earth was therefore literally just, righteous, faultless, unblemished. Like the sons of Korah the Levite, he found a resting place for himself at the grand altar of Jehovah’s will in the courtyard of the true “grand tabernacle” of Jehovah God. (Psalm 84:1-3) He delighted in doing the divine will.—Psalm 40:8.
38, 39. (a) What else came into existence along with the antitypical courtyard and altar? (b) What question does this raise, and what words of Jesus show location for God?
38 Not only did the antitypical altar and courtyard then come into existence to accommodate the new spiritual High Priest, the anointed Jesus, but the antitypical tent or temple likewise came into existence. From then on the “true tent, which Jehovah put up,” was at the disposal of the new spiritual High Priest.
39 What is that “true tent” or temple? Is it a new special building that the Creator has made for himself up in the invisible heavens? No, for God does not need such a thing. The Most High God has always had a place of residence in heaven. He is not an all-pervasive spirit that is omnipresent, present everywhere at the same time. Being an intelligent Person, he has his location, his place of residence where he can be approached. Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” He warned us against despising any of the “little ones” who believe in him and explained why, saying: “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9; 18:10) That is, such heavenly angels have access to the divine Father.
40. What could God do with reference to his heavenly residence to make it compare with the Most Holy of the sacred “tent”?
40 However, Almighty God can change the aspect of his exclusive place of residence. Thus at the time that he brought forth his spiritual High Priest by anointing Jesus Christ, just baptized, God could make his own heavenly residence take on a new aspect, having new appointments or features about it, with relation to mankind in their sin (not in relation to the sinless angels). The holiness of his heavenly residence was intensified in contrast with the exceeding sinfulness of mankind. His personal residence now presented itself as the holy place of a God who is just and yet who is merciful so as to accept a suitable perfect sacrifice in behalf of unholy mankind. But this sacrifice, or its value, must be presented by a High Priest who is sinless and holy and who can have personal acceptable access to God. So his heavenly throne becomes a propitiatory throne. In this way God made his heavenly residence take on the spiritual characteristics of the Most Holy or Holiest compartment of the typical tent or temple.
41, 42. (a) Into what was Aaron permitted to enter “once a year,” and how? (b) What was the Most Holy into which Jesus Christ entered, at what time period, and how often?
41 This is the Bible viewpoint. We remember that the high priest Aaron took the blood of the atonement day sacrifices into the Most Holy of the earthly tent of meeting, passing the inner curtain or veil in order to do so. (Leviticus 16:12-17; Hebrews 9:7) In order to fulfill the typical picture, High Priest Jesus Christ must enter the real Most Holy. Where does the Bible show it to be, and what is it?
42 Listen: “Therefore it was necessary that the typical representations of the things in the heavens should be cleansed by these means, but the heavenly things themselves with sacrifices that are better than such sacrifices. For Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which [holy place] is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us. Neither is it in order that he should offer himself often, as indeed the high priest enters into the holy place from year to year with blood not his own. Otherwise, he [Jesus] would have to suffer often from the founding of the world. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the [typical] systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.”—Hebrews 9:23-26.
43, 44. (a) What, then, is God’s holy residence as regards his temple? (b) What separated the Holy from the Most Holy, and how did Jesus Christ pass this in the antitype?
43 Instead of climaxing the antitypical Day of Atonement by entering into a typical “holy place” inside the typical tent or temple, High Priest Jesus Christ entered “into heaven itself” where the “person of God” is. This heavenly residence of the very person of God is the true Most Holy, the Holy of Holies, the Holiest of all.
44 In the typical tent or temple on earth the Most Holy was screened off by a curtain or veil, and so the Most Holy was said to be within the curtain. So that curtain represented the human fleshly barrier that has to be passed for one to pass from human life on earth into the invisible heavens. Jesus Christ by death and resurrection passed this barrier in order to enter into the heavenly Most Holy. This is what is meant in Hebrews 6:19, 20, where, after the heavenly hope of the 144,000 faithful disciples is spoken of, it says: “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and it enters in within the curtain, where a forerunner has entered in our behalf, Jesus who has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever.” Hope anchored “within the curtain” is heavenly.
THE “HOLY” OF GOD’S SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
45. (a) What else was there to the “tent” besides the Most Holy? (b) Who entered into the Holy, how often, and how?
45 Let us not overlook the fact that the Most Holy was not all that there was to the earthly tent or temple. Besides its innermost compartment, the Most Holy, the tent or temple had another compartment in front of the dividing curtain. This compartment was called The Holy. (Hebrews 9:1-3) Since the Most Holy typified “heaven itself” where the “person of God” is, what did the Holy in front of the curtain or screen represent? Whereas the Most Holy could be entered by the high priest only “once a year” on the atonement day, the Holy could be entered regularly, not only by the high priest, but also by all the underpriests. The priests entered into this first compartment, The Holy, directly from the courtyard where the altar was; but they had to pass a screen or hanging that separated the Holy from the courtyard.
46, 47. (a) When and how did Jesus enter into the antitypical Holy? (b) So what does the Holy represent, and what privileges do the antitypical priests enjoy therein?
46 So the Holy represented a condition of greater sacredness than the courtyard did. As the Holy was screened off and its contents were thus hidden from the eyes of those in the courtyard, the Holy typified a spiritual condition superior to what is pictured by the courtyard, which pictured a human condition with a righteous standing before God. Jesus Christ entered the condition pictured by the Holy compartment when he was begotten by God’s holy spirit after his water baptism and thus became a spiritual Son of God. (Matthew 3:13-17) By being anointed also with the spirit of God, Jesus as a spiritual Son of God was clothed with priestly office; he became God’s High Priest, as pictured by High Priest Aaron.
47 From this standpoint it can be seen that the Holy compartment represented the spirit-begotten condition of those who are inducted into this spiritual priesthood. In that condition these spiritual priests on earth enjoy spiritual light as by a golden lampstand, eat spiritual food as from a golden table of loaves of presentation, and offer up the incense of prayer and service to God as though standing at a golden incense altar.—Exodus 40:4, 5, 22-28.
48. How long was Jesus in the condition pictured by the Holy, and why did his disciples not have clear discernment about him?
48 By measuring from the day of his baptism and anointing with holy spirit down to the day of his death (from 29 to 33 C.E.), Jesus Christ was in that spirit-begotten priestly condition pictured by the Holy compartment for three and a half years. His services in this condition could not be properly discerned and appreciated by mere natural men, even by his faithful disciples, because they looked at matters from a natural human standpoint. The day of the Festival of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E., with its pouring out of holy spirit, had not yet arrived. (John 7:39) Their discernment was blocked as by the “screen of the entrance of the tabernacle,” which hid the things inside the Holy compartment.—Exodus 40:28, 29.
49. How was Jesus in the antitypical Holy blocked from direct approach to the heavenly Most Holy?
49 Inside the Holy condition, the spirit-begotten priestly condition, the High Priest Jesus Christ on earth was blocked from direct approach to the heavenly presence of God because of still being in the flesh as a perfect human creature. There was that symbolic “curtain” between him and the heavenly Most Holy, just as when Moses “put the curtain of the screen in place and shut off approach to the ark of the testimony.”—Exodus 40:21.
50. (a) When did Jesus Christ pass the inner “curtain,” and how? (b) What oath concerning priesthood then went into effect toward Jesus Christ, and why?
50 Jesus Christ as High Priest passed that symbolic curtain of the “true tent” on Nisan 16 of the year 33 C.E., by being resurrected from the dead, no longer just spirit-begotten and in the flesh, but now fully brought forth as a spirit Son of God in the invisible heavens. The apostle Peter states it correctly when he writes: “Even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) On that eventful day God’s sworn oath concerning an everlasting priesthood “according to the manner of Melchizedek” went into effect toward Jesus Christ, now that he was rewarded with the “power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16, 24; Acts 13:33-37; Romans 1:1-4) After making appearances to his faithful disciples by special manifestation during the following forty days, he ascended to heaven and presented to God himself in the true Most Holy the value of his perfect human sacrifice.—Acts 1:1-11; Hebrews 9:24.
51. (a) When did the antitypical Day of Atonement end, and how long had it lasted? (b) How was the evidence given that the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice had been accepted in the Most Holy?
51 With that presentation of the merit of Christ’s sacrifice in the heavenly Most Holy, the great antitypical Day of Atonement ended. In the case of High Priest Aaron of the tribe of Levi, the national atonement day was only one literal twenty-four-hour day long. But in the case of High Priest Jesus Christ, the antitypical Day of Atonement proved to be a period of almost three years and eight months. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven the evidence was given to his faithful disciples on earth that the merit of his perfect human sacrifice as presented to God in the heavenly Most Holy had been accepted. How? By the pouring out of holy spirit upon them at Jerusalem on Sunday, Sivan 6, the day of the Festival of Weeks or the day of Pentecost, of the year 33 C.E. (Acts 2:1-36) This marked something new with respect to the “true tent, which Jehovah put up.” This we shall now see.
52. (a) How was it foreshadowed that the Greater Melchizedek has underpriests? (b) When was the Aaronic priesthood installed, and what “holy sign” was put on Aaron’s head?
52 There is no record that King-Priest Melchizedek of ancient Salem had any underpriests. But the Son of God, who has become a “high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek” has underpriests. (Hebrews 5:8-10) This was foreshadowed by the priestly family of Aaron the Levite. Jehovah God called Aaron to be the high priest of Israel and his sons to be underpriests to him. On the first day of the spring month of Nisan of the year 1512 B.C.E., the prophet Moses obeyed God’s command and proceeded to install Aaron and his sons in the priesthood. (Exodus 40:1, 2, 12-16; 29:4-9; Leviticus 8:1-13) Among the articles of dress of the high priest “they made the shining plate, the holy sign of dedication, out of pure gold and inscribed upon it an inscription with the engravings of a seal: ‘Holiness belongs to Jehovah.’”—Exodus 39:30.
53. (a) In thus adorning the turban of High Priest Aaron, what command of Jehovah did Moses obey? (b) From what Hebrew verb is the term for “sign of dedication” derived?
53 So, when dressing his brother Aaron for installation as high priest, Moses carried out Jehovah’s command: “And you must set the turban upon his head and put the holy sign of dedication upon the turban. And you must take the anointing oil and pour it upon his head and anoint him.” (Exodus 29:6, 7) Because this “holy sign of dedication” was the “shining plate” of pure gold, many translators of the Hebrew Scriptures prefer to render this expression “the holy diadem,” “the diadem of holiness.” (See Exodus 29:6, footnote; Jerusalem Bible) Of course, the regular Hebrew words for “diadem” and “crown” are different from the Hebrew word here rendered “sign of dedication.” In Leviticus 21:12 this latter Hebrew word is applied to the anointing oil upon the high priest’s head, for we read: “He should also not go out from the sanctuary and not profane the sanctuary of his God, because the sign of dedication, the anointing oil of his God, is upon him.” The Hebrew word is derived from the verb na·zarʹ, which is translated “dedicate” in Hosea 9:10.—An American Translation; NW.
54, 55. (a) What was the anointed high priest called, and what did the anointing of him typify? (b) Did John the Baptist anoint Jesus with holy spirit, or who did?
54 Unquestionably, the high priest Aaron and his successors in office were men dedicated to Jehovah God by reason of their official installation. (Exodus 29:30, 35) Because of being anointed with the holy anointing oil, the high priest was called “the anointed one,” or Messiah (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22), the same as later for the anointed kings of Israel. (1 Samuel 24:6, 10; 26:9-11; Lamentations 4:20) So, after our being told the names of the four sons and underpriests of High Priest Aaron, we read: “These were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests whose hands had been filled with power to act as priests.” (Numbers 3:1-3) When Moses, the mediator between Jehovah God and the nation of Israel, anointed his older brother Aaron to be high priest, it had a typical meaning. It typified that God would anoint his Son Jesus with the holy spirit after Jesus came up from the waters of baptism.
55 John the Baptist was the son of a Levite priest, namely, Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah. However, John merely baptized Jesus in the Jordan River; he did not anoint Jesus to be a spiritual high priest. (Luke 1:5-17; 3:21-23; Mark 1:9-11) God alone could anoint Jesus with the holy spirit.
56, 57. (a) What did John the Baptist say that Jesus would be empowered to do? (b) Before Jesus left his disciples, what did he tell them about baptism with holy spirit?
56 With reference to Jesus, John the Baptist had said: “After me someone stronger than I am is coming; I am not fit to stoop and untie the laces of his sandals. I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with holy spirit.” God had told John of the coming of this one, for John said: “Even I did not know him, but the very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.’” (Mark 1:7, 8; John 1:33) So Jesus was not only himself anointed with holy spirit to be the spiritual high priest, but was also to be empowered to baptize others with holy spirit. But when would he baptize with holy spirit? Not before his death as a perfect human sacrifice.
57 After his resurrection from the dead, he made materialized fleshly bodies and made visible appearances to his disciples who were still in Jerusalem. What did he then tell them about the holy spirit? Acts 1:4, 5 tells us: “And while he was meeting with them he gave them the orders: ‘Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.’”
58, 59. (a) When did this baptism occur, and how did Jesus Christ fulfill antitypically what the high priest did that day at the temple? (b) What prophecy of Joel began fulfilling there, and how did Peter connect Jesus with the matter?
58 This proved to be ten days after his ascension to heaven. It proved to be Sivan 6 of the year 33 C.E., the Day of the Festival of Weeks (or Pentecost), when the Jewish high priest at the temple in Jerusalem presented to God two loaves of leavened bread as firstfruits of the wheat harvest. (Leviticus 23:15-21) On this same day, in antitypical fashion, the heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ presented to Jehovah God the Christian congregation as a firstfruits to Him. (Revelation 14:4) He did this by serving as a channel for the pouring out of holy spirit upon his waiting disciples in Jerusalem. It was a beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29, and the spirit-filled apostle Peter explained it this way, saying to thousands of Jewish spectators:
59 “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand; until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:14-21, 32-36.
60. How had Jesus’ thus pouring out holy spirit been foreshadowed by Moses’ action on Nisan 1, 1512 B.C.E.?
60 In this way Jesus Christ baptized his faithful disciples with the holy spirit. This had been foreshadowed long previously, on Nisan 1, 1512 B.C.E. This was when Moses carried out Jehovah’s orders and anointed with holy anointing oil the sons of High Priest Aaron. About this we read: “Then Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying: ‘On the day of the first month, on the first of the month, you are to set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. Then you must bring Aaron and his sons near to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. And you must clothe Aaron with the holy garments and anoint him and sanctify him, and so he must act as priest to me. After that you will bring his sons near and you must clothe them with robes. And you must anoint them just as you anointed their father, and so they must act as priests to me, and their anointing must serve continually for them as a priesthood to time indefinite during their generations.’ And Moses proceeded to do according to all that Jehovah had commanded him. He did just so.”—Exodus 40:1, 2, 12-16.
61. What must be said as to whether the successors of those four original underpriests were anointed, and as to whether the successor of the high priest was individually anointed with holy oil?
61 Thus the four sons of Aaron were anointed as the first underpriests of Israel. But thereafter, their successors on being inducted into office as underpriests were not given an individual anointing with the holy anointing oil. Their just being invested with the official garments of an underpriest was considered sufficient. The anointing of the first four underpriests served as a representation for them. However, each successor to the high priest Aaron was individually anointed. (Numbers 3:1-3; Exodus 29:29, 30; Numbers 20:23-29; Deuteronomy 10:6) Nevertheless, the entire priesthood of Israel was to be considered as an anointed class according to the anointing of the original members.
62. By being used to anoint his disciples on earth, what did Jesus Christ make them under him, and how does John in the Revelation agree with this?
62 In the antitypical fulfillment, by anointing the 144,000 faithful disciples with holy spirit, the heavenly Jesus Christ acts as God’s Representative and makes them spiritual priests, his underpriests over whom he is High Priest. That is why the apostle John could write with reference to Jesus Christ as follows: “Jesus Christ, ‘the Faithful Witness,’ ‘The firstborn from the dead,’ and ‘The Ruler of the kings of the earth.’ To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen.” Also: “You were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 1:5, 6; 5:9, 10.
63. How did the apostle Peter by letter testify to the priesthood of the anointed disciples of Jesus?
63 There is another inspired witness to the fact—the apostle Peter. Writing a few years before the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans (in 70 C.E.) and the Levitical priests there were to lose their jobs, Peter said to the spirit-anointed Christians with a heavenly hope: “These are stumbling because they are disobedient to the word. . . . But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Peter 2:8, 9.
64. So, in what condition are those anointed disciples as typified in the ancient “tent of meeting,” and, like Jesus, what privileges do they enjoy in that condition?
64 Their being now a priesthood meant a new standing with relation to the “true tent” or temple, which was put up, not by human hands, but by Jehovah God. It meant that they were now in the priestly spirit-begotten condition that was typified by the Holy compartment of the ancient “tent of meeting” set up by Moses. This was just as in the case of the High Priest Jesus Christ during the time from his anointing with holy spirit down to the time of his death as a perfect human creature. So, like him, they enjoy, while still on earth in their fleshly bodies, the spiritual enlightenment as shed by the antitypical golden lampstand; they eat from the spiritual food as typified by two stacks of loaves of presentation on the golden table; they offer up prayers and fervent service to God as though offering up incense at the golden incense altar in the Holy of the tent of meeting.
65. To those in the condition pictured by the Holy, what did the apostle John write about their anointing?
65 To these in the spirit-begotten condition pictured by the typical Holy, it is written: “You have an anointing from the holy one; all of you have knowledge. These things I write you about those who are trying to mislead you. And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”—1 John 2:20, 26, 27.
66. To such ones in the condition pictured by the Holy, what did the apostle Paul write concerning their anointing?
66 To those in the spirit-begotten priestly condition typified by the Holy compartment in which the Aaronic priests were permitted to enter and serve, it is further written by the apostle Paul: “He who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ [Anointed One] and he who has anointed us is God. He has also put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.”—2 Corinthians 1:21, 22.
67. To the Christianized Hebrews, what did the inspired writer say about eating from an altar and about sacrificing?
67 Inasmuch as these 144,000 are spiritual priests under the heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ, they have the authority to eat from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the “altar” of God’s “will,” and those who unbelievingly rejected Jesus as being the true Messiah or Christ had no authority to eat of his sacrifice on God’s antitypical “altar.” Without presumption the inspired writer could say to the believing Christianized Hebrews, in Hebrews 13:10-15: “We have an altar from which those who do sacred service at the tent have no authority to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is taken into the holy place by the high priest for sin are burned up outside the camp. Hence Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate [of Jerusalem]. Let us, then, go forth to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach he bore, for we do not have here a city that continues, but we are earnestly seeking the one to come. Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”
68, 69. (a) Their eating from the altar indicates that they are in what location antitypically, and how did they get there? (b) In proof that they have this standing, what was written to Roman Christians?
68 Since these spiritual underpriests have the divine authority and eat of the sacrifice upon God’s true “altar,” this means that they are also in the condition pictured by the courtyard in which the copper altar of sacrifice was located. This is the condition of being declared righteous or justified by God through their faith in the sacrificed Jesus Christ. When the High Priest Jesus Christ took the value of his sacrificial “blood” and entered into the heavenly Most Holy and presented this directly to Jehovah God, then, from the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. onward, the benefits of his perfect human sacrifice began to apply to the disciples on earth because of their faith. By faith, with a heart of appreciation, they ate of Christ’s sacrifice that was offered on the basis of God’s will. In this way they gained the forgiveness of their sins. By granting them this forgiveness and thereby counting them as being sinless in the flesh, God declared them righteous or justified them. In this way he brought them into the antitypical courtyard. In proof that they have this standing, we read:
69 “We believe on him who raised Jesus our Lord up from the dead. He was delivered up for the sake of our trespasses and was raised up for the sake of declaring us righteous. Therefore, now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand; and let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath.”—Romans 4:24 through 5:2, 9.
70. (a) Giving further assurance of their uncondemned condition before God while they are still in the flesh, what is written in Romans? (b) By any sacrifices on their part, can they add anything to the value or merit of Christ’s sacrifice?
70 Giving further assurance that these spiritual underpriests are reckoned by God as being sinless, without condemnation, in the flesh while yet on this earth, it is written: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, with my mind I myself [the apostle Paul] am a slave to God’s law, but with my flesh to sin’s law. Therefore those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. For the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 7:25 through 8:2) This righteous, uncondemned standing before God while they are still in the imperfect, sin-laden flesh is what is pictured by the ancient courtyard in which the copper altar of sacrifice stood and at which the Aaronic priests served. They can add nothing to the value or merit of Christ’s sacrifice for sins by any fleshly sacrifices of their own. That is why they offer to God through Christ the “sacrifice of praise” and the doing of Christian good. They see the absolute valuelessness of performing what is called the “sacrifice of the Mass” in some church.
71. (a) The Christians thus declared righteous are also in what location antitypically? (b) What separates them from the heavenly Most Holy, and who has pioneered a way for them thereinto?
71 While still on the earth in the flesh, these underpriests, clad in the robes of imputed righteousness, are also in that spirit-begotten condition pictured by the Holy compartment of the typical tent or temple. Yet, like their High Priest Jesus Christ, they entertain the hope of entering into the heavenly Most Holy where God thrones in person. What now prevents them from entering directly into that true Most Holy is the fleshly barrier, their yet living in the flesh. This fleshly barrier was pictured by the inner curtain that screened off the Holy compartment of the tent from the Most Holy where the golden Ark of the Covenant with its Shekinah Light was located. Jesus Christ pioneered the way for them “through the curtain” and into the real Most Holy. He entered as a “forerunner” for them into the Most Holy “within the curtain.” (Hebrews 6:19, 20) So he inaugurated this new way into heavenly life.
72. The 144,000 underpriests are encouraged to prove worthy of an entry into what, and how?
72 Hence these 144,000 spiritual underpriests are told to take courage in their efforts to prove worthy to be admitted to “within the curtain” by faithfulness until death of the fleshly body and a resurrection from the dead to life in the spirit. “Therefore, brothers,” says the inspired writer in Hebrews 10:19-22, “since we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, which [way] he inaugurated for us as a new and living way through the curtain, that is, his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith.”
73. Passing the fleshly barrier, the spiritual underpriests will enter into what, and to do what?
73 When, after faithfully carrying out their earthly duties as spiritual underpriests even to the death, they are brought to life in the “first resurrection,” they will have passed the fleshly barrier, the antitypical “curtain,” and will be admitted into the heavenly Most Holy and see the indescribable glory of the living God. They will enter into his presence, not to do like the High Priest Jesus Christ, in presenting the merit of a perfect human sacrifice, but to serve with their High Priest in extending the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice to needy mankind. (Revelation 20:6) Although there is a thousand years of heavenly priesthood to carry out, they will not need successors to serve after them. Like their glorified High Priest, they will have the “power of an indestructible life” and can fully accomplish their priesthood for a millennium without successors.—Hebrews 7:16, 24.
SYMPATHETIC, UNDERSTANDING PRIESTS
74. (a) The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ paved the way for the 144,000 to gain what? (b) Why will that sacrifice make the thousand years of Christ’s priesthood a blessed time for mankind?
74 What a blessed time that thousand years of this heavenly priesthood will be for sinful and dying mankind! The High Priest thereof offered up to God the perfect sacrifice, not just for his 144,000 underpriests, but for all mankind. As one of those spiritual underpriests, John wrote nineteen centuries ago: “My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:1, 2) The propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ paved the way for the 144,000 underpriests to get free from sin and its condemnation to death and to gain everlasting life with their High Priest in heaven. That same propitiatory sacrifice carries enough merit to benefit the whole race of mankind; it is for the world’s sins. As John the Baptist, pointing to the baptized Jesus Christ, cried out: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29.
75. (a) Christ’s ability to help the 144,000 underpriests while on earth is assurance of his ability to help whom else? (b) Who besides the great crowd of tribulation survivors will benefit from the merit of Christ’s sacrifice?
75 Jesus Christ the High Priest was able to help the congregation of his 144,000 underpriests to overcome sin and to be relieved of its condemnation to death. He can do the same thing for all the rest of mankind, especially the willing ones, who crave everlasting life with a good conscience toward God. Christ has a thousand years in which to do this. He is willing and desires to do it. He will absolutely make no failure of his millennial priesthood “according to the manner of Melchizedek.” He will then help more than just the living, the “great crowd” that survive and come out of the great tribulation with which this worldly system of things ends. He will also help the unnumbered thousands of millions who are now sleeping the sleep of death in the graves of earth. (2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 7:9-15; Acts 24:15) He will not let any of the precious merit of his perfect human sacrifice go unused, unapplied to the needy.
76, 77. (a) How did Jesus, when on earth under test, comport himself toward men, and what does this ensure regarding his treatment of mankind during his millennial priesthood? (b) Thus why is Jesus Christ better able to come to the aid of those being put to the test?
76 “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This evidenced that he had a sympathetic, merciful, self-sacrificing attitude toward fallen mankind, the inheritors of sin and death from wayward Adam and Eve. He was kind, patient, compassionate, helpful and understanding when he was on earth for thirty-three and a half years. Being a man himself and under temptation, he could understand man, and this enabled him to appreciate more keenly the kind of treatment that imperfect, sin-plagued mankind needed. Even when dying an innocent death on the execution stake at Calvary, he took uncomplainingly the abuse and reviling of misguided men. If, now, he was that way when on earth under the worst of conditions, we can be sure that he will be just the same way during his millennial priesthood toward mankind. This is the heartwarming argument that the inspired writer makes:
77 “He is really not assisting angels at all, but he is assisting Abraham’s seed. Consequently he was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.”—Hebrews 2:16-18. Compare Hebrews 5:1, 2.
78. What does Hebrews 5:7-10 show that Jesus went through for the sake of pure worship and for our sakes?
78 What Jesus Christ went through in order to prove himself a successful, faultless high priest on earth for the pure worship of God and for our sakes is described briefly for us in Hebrews 5:7-10, in these words: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him, because he has been specifically called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.”
79, 80. (a) Having the “power of an indestructible life” enables Christ to do what in behalf of mankind during his millennial priesthood? (b) What kind of priesthood did God’s sworn oath produce in contrast with that produced by the Law?
79 His having the “power of an indestructible life” will enable him to carry through his millennial priesthood without successors to a God-honoring conclusion. He can help mankind clear through to a total elimination of sin and its terrible penalty death. He can do what the many Aaronic priests in succession could never do in the more than a millennium and a half of their sacred service. As it is written, in Hebrews 7:23-28:
80 “Furthermore, many had to become priests in succession because of being prevented by death from continuing as such, but he because of continuing alive forever has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them. For such a high priest as this was suitable for us, loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners, and become higher than the heavens. He does not need daily, as those high priests do, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for those of the people: (for this he did once for all time when he offered himself up;) for the Law appoints men high priests having weakness, but the word of the sworn oath that came after the Law appoints a Son, who is perfected forever.”
81. (a) Why will the 144,000 underpriests be able to show sympathy and understanding toward mankind? (b) What will their having the “power of an indestructible life” enable them to do?
81 And what about the 144,000 spiritual underpriests, who “will be priests of God and of the Christ . . . for the thousand years”? (Revelation 20:6) Well, God foreordained them “to be patterned after the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29) They also have been born and grown up as men and women, as humans, but sinful, imperfect, badly disposed because of inheritance from rebellious Adam and Eve. They know therefore what it means to be a weak sinful human creature. So, too, like their High Priest Jesus Christ, they can be sympathetic and kindly disposed toward sinful, dying mankind. They were that way when yet on earth as spiritual underpriests. They will be just the same way when they share in the “first resurrection” and become heavenly underpriests. They will not have to die and regretfully leave their work uncompleted. No, but by having the “power of an indestructible life,” they can join and keep up with their High Priest in carrying on the sin-removing work to a perfect completion. With what result? All the willing ones of mankind restored to sinless human perfection.
82. How does Revelation 21:4 describe the awe-inspiring accomplishment of that millennial priesthood, and what kind of universe will God again have?
82 The awe-inspiring accomplishment by this priesthood for a millennium without scheming priestcraft is described for us in these marvelous words: “Death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Yes, sin, which is the “sting producing death,” will be gone! The sinfulness of mankind inherited from our self-seeking first human parents will be wiped out, with all its mournful, God-dishonoring effects. The Most High God Jehovah will again have a clean, pure and holy universe.
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GROUND PLAN OF THE TENT OF MEETING
Table for Showbread
Altar of Burnt Offering
Ark of the Covenant
Altar of Incense