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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Five :: Chapter Two

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Section Five :: Chapter Two

The first head explained by two things: First, intercession one part of Christ’s priesthood, and the most excellent part of it.

1. Towards the explanation of the first of these, two things are to be done.

  • (1.) First, to show how great, and necessary, and how excellent a part of Christ’s priesthood his intercession and praying for us in heaven is.

  • (2.) Secondly, to show the peculiar influence that intercession has into our salvation, and so the reasons for which God ordained this work of intercession for us, and that in heaven, to be added to all the former.

(1.) For the first I will proceed therein by degrees.

  • [1.] It is one part of his priesthood. You must know that Christ is not entered into heaven simply as a “forerunner” (which has been explained) to take up places for you, but as a priest also: “made a priest, after the order of Melchisedec,” which is more than simply a forerunner. Yes, his sitting at God’s right hand is not only as a king armed with power and authority to save us, but he sits there as a priest too: Thus, Hebrews 8:1, “We have such a High Priest, who is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

  • In the old Levitical priesthood, the high priest’s office had two parts, both which concurred to make them high priests.

    • First, Oblation or offering the sacrifice.

    • Secondly, presentation of it in the holy of holies, with prayer and intercession unto God, to accept it for the sins of the people. The one was done without, the other within the holy of holies. This you see in many places, especially Leviticus 16:11, 15-16, where you have the law about the high priest’s entering into the holy of holies. He was not to come into the holy place until first he had offered a sacrifice for himself and the people, Leviticus 16:11, 15, and this without. Then secondly, when he had killed it, he was to enter with the blood of it into the holy of holies, and sprinkle the mercy-seat therein with it, Leviticus 16:14, 17, and to go with incense, and cause a cloud to arise over the mercy-seat. And this you have also in Hebrews 13:11, it is said that the blood of those beasts that were burnt without the camp was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest. And in that Leviticus 16 you shall find the atonement made as well by the blood, when brought into the holy place in Leviticus 16:16, as by the killing of the beast in Leviticus 16:11. Both these were acts of the high priesthood for atonement.

    • And this was done in a type and [Qu. “of the?”—ED.] priestly office of Christ, and the parts thereof. So in Hebrews 9:23, he calls all those transactions under the ceremonial law, “the patterns of things heavenly;” instancing in this part of Christ’s office. Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ,” says he, “is not entered into the holy places made with hands,” as that was, “which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us.” Now, then, in answer to this type, there are two distinct parts of Christ’s priesthood.

      • First, the “offering himself a sacrifice” up to death, as in Hebrews 9:26, which answers to the killing of the sacrifice without the holy of holies; for answerably he was crucified without the city, Hebrews 13:12.

      • Secondly, he carried this his blood into the holy of holies, namely, the heavens in Hebrews 9:12, where he appears in Hebrews 9:24, and there also prays in the force of that blood. And the type of those prayers was that cloud of incense made by the high priest; so it is expressly interpreted in Revelation 8:3. The angel Christ is said to have had “much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints.” Which incense is his own prayers in heaven, which he continually puts up when the saints pray on earth, and so perfumes all their prayers, and procures all blessings for them.

    • Both these parts of his priesthood the apostle John mentions in 1 John 2:2, whereas he calls Jesus Christ a “propitiation for our sins” (that is, an oblation or sacrifice offered up for us); so likewise he calls him our advocate, both going to make up this his office. And indeed, this latter of intercession and bringing his blood into the holy of holies (or heaven) is but the same action continued. That blood which he offered with tears and strong cries on the cross, where he likewise interceded, the same blood he continues virtually to offer up with prayers in the heavens, and makes atonement by both, only with this difference: on earth, though he interceded, yet he more eminently offered up himself; in heaven, he more eminently intercedes, and does but present that offering.

  • [2.] Secondly, this was so necessary a part of his priesthood, that without it he had not been a complete priest. Thus in Hebrews 8:4, “If he were on earth he should not be a priest;” that is, if he should have abode on earth he should not have been a complete priest. Paul says not, that if he had offered that his sacrifice on earth, he had not been a priest, for that was necessary; but that if he had stayed still on earth, after he had offered it, he had not been a priest, that is, a perfect priest. For he had then left his office imperfect, and had done it but by halves, seeing this other part of it (the work of intercession) lay still upon him to be acted in heaven. Thus the high priest, his type, if he had only offered sacrifice without the holy of holies, had not been a perfect high priest; for to enter into the holy of holies, and to act the part of a priest there, was the proper, peculiar work of the high priest as such. Which shows, that Christ had not been a high priest if he had not gone to heaven, and priested it there too, as I may so speak, as well as upon earth. Yes, if Christ had not gone to heaven and were not now become a priest there, then the Levitical priesthood were still in force, and should share the honor with him, and the high priest must continue still to go into the holy of holies.

  • To this purpose you may observe, that so long as Christ was on earth, though risen, the types of the law held in force, and were not to give way, until all the truth signified by their ministry was fully accomplished. And so, not until Christ was gone into heaven as a priest and there had begun to do all that which the high priest had done in the holy of holies, and as his type fore-signified. And this is plainly the meaning of what follows (in that Hebrews 8:4) as the reason or demonstration why that Christ should not have been a priest, if he had not gone to heaven, not only as a king, but as a priest too, as he had affirmed. Hebrews 8:4, “Seeing,” says he, “that there are priests upon earth that do offer gifts according to the law.” The force of the reason lies thus: there are already priests, and that of a tribe he was not of, that offer gifts on earth, before he came into the world. And, therefore, if that had been all his priesthood, to be a priest on earth, they would plead possession before him, having been priests before him. And then he further backs his reason by this: that “those priests served” (as it follows in Hebrews 8:5), “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” And therefore, it is only a real priesthood in heaven which must put them out of place, and until such a priesthood comes, they must serve still for the truth, which these serve to shadow out, is not until then fulfilled. This you have also in Hebrews 9:8. The “first tabernacle” was to stand until a priest went into heaven, and did act that office there; so that, if Christ will be a priest alone, he must become a priest interceding in heaven or else high priests must come up again, and share that office with him, and so he should as good as fall from his office, and lose all that he had done.

  • [3.] Yes, thirdly, this part of his priesthood is of the two the more eminent, yes the top, the height of his priesthood. And this is held forth to us in the types of both those two orders of priesthood that were before him and figures of him, both that of Aaron and Melchisedec:

    • First, this was typified out in that Levitical priesthood of Aaron and his fellows. The highest service of that office was the going into the holy of holies and making an atonement there; yes, this was the height of the high priest’s honor that he did this alone, and did constitute the difference between him, as he was high priest, and other priests. For they killed and offered the sacrifices without as well as he, every ordinary priest did that; but none but the high priest was to approach the holy of holies with blood, and this but once a year. Thus in Hebrews 9:6-7, “the priests,” namely those inferior priests, “went always,” that is daily, morning and evening, “into the first tabernacle,” or court of priests, which was without the holy of holies, “accomplishing the service of God,” namely that offering of the daily sacrifice; “but into the second,” namely the holy of holies, “went the high priests alone every year.” So then, this was that high and transcendent prerogative of that high priest then, and which indeed made him high priest; and answerably the height of our high priest’s office,—although he alone also could offer a satisfactory sacrifice, as the apostle shows in Hebrews 9 and 10. Yet it comparatively lay in this that he entered into the heavens by his blood, and is set down on the majesty on high, and in the virtue of his sacrifice there does intercede. I know but one place that calls him the “Great High Priest” (higher before than Aaron), and that is in Hebrews 4:14, 16. And then it is in this respect that he is “passed into the heavens,” as it follows there.

    • Secondly, the excellency of this part of his priesthood was likewise typified out by Melchisedec’s priesthood, which the apostle argues to have been much more excellent than that of Aaron’s, inasmuch as Levi, Aaron’s father, paid tithes to this Melchisedec in Abraham’s loins. Now Melchisedec was his type, not so much in respect of his oblation, or offering of sacrifice (that work which Christ performed on earth), but in respect of that work which he ever performs in heaven. Therefore that same clause forever still comes in, in the quotation and mention of Melchisedec’s priesthood in that Epistle; because in respect of that his continual intercession in heaven, Melchisedec was properly Christ’s type. And accordingly you may observe in Psalm 110:4, when is it that speech comes in, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec;” but then, when God had him sitting at his right hand? Psalm 110:1. So that, as the transcendent excellency of Christ’s priesthood was typified out by Melchisedec’s rather than Aaron’s, as being the better priesthood of the two, so this, the most excellent part thereof, was typified out thereby, namely, that which Christ forever acts in heaven.

    • And, thirdly, to confirm this, you shall find this to be made the top notion of this Epistle to the Hebrews, and the scope of it chiefly, to discourse of Christ’s eternal priesthood in heaven, and to show how therein Melchisedec was a type of him. This is not only expressed both in Hebrews 7:21, where this same forever is applied to his intercession and Hebrews 7:25, but more expressly in Hebrews 8:1, where the apostle puts the emphasis upon this part of his priesthood, saying, that “of the things which we have spoken,”—or which are to be spoken, for the word ἑπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις will bear either—“this is,” says he, “the sum or argument” of all. The word is κεφάλαιον, and signifies as well the head, the chief, the top of all, and above all, as it does the sum of all.

And what is it that he thus professes to be both the main subject and argument of this epistle, and the top and eminent thing in Christ he intends to discourse of? It follows, that “we have such a high priest as is set down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” And of the priestly office he alone discourses both before and after; and in the following verses calls his ministry or office (in respect of this) “a more excellent ministry,” Hebrews 8:6, “he being such a priest as was higher than the heavens,” as he had set him out in the latter part of the former chapter. And therefore you may observe, how in his preface to this Epistle in Hebrews 1:3, he holds up this to our eye as the argument of the whole saying, “When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Yes, to conclude this, all his priesthood would have been ineffectual, if he had not acted the part of a priest in heaven, by intercession there; for by his death he did but begin the execution of his office, and in heaven he ends it. And if he had not fulfilled his office in both, the work of our salvation had not been fully perfected; it was therefore as necessary as oblation itself. Not but that his death was a perfect oblation; it was perfect for an oblation, to which as such nothing can be added. There needed no more, nor any other price to be paid for us; “by that one offering, he perfects us forever,” as in Hebrews 10:14, and became himself perfect thereby, Hebrews 5:9. And in Hebrews 9:12, “By his own blood he entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Mark how before he entered by his blood into heaven, he had fully obtained a redemption, and that eternal that is forever sufficient; which done, he became through his intercession in heaven an applying cause of eternal salvation, as Hebrews 5:10-11 has it. So that as in his death he paid the full sum of all he owed, unto which payment nothing can be added, no not by himself, though he would come and die again. It was made at that once as perfect, that is for an oblation, as ever he could make. But yet still by God’s ordination there remained another further action of another kind that was to be added to this of oblation, and that is intercession, or praying for us in heaven. Otherwise our salvation by his death was not perfected; for if his priesthood be imperfect, our salvation then must necessarily be so. The presenting of that his sacrifice in heaven, was the consummation of his priesthood, and the performance of that part there, the perfection of it.

Section Five :: Chapter One ← Prior Section
Section Five :: Chapter Three Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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