The Meaning & Importance of Melchizedek
Through the centuries, Christians have wondered about the meaning and importance of Melchizedek. Perhaps the Holy Spirit created this spiritual disturbance because the topic of Melchizedek is surprisingly important for Christians living today! For simplicity, I have divided this presentation into three parts:
- Who was Melchizedek?
- What Does “The Order of Melchizedek” Mean? and;
- After the Cross, Why Do Christians Need a High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek?
1. Who was Melchizedek?
Melchizedek and Abraham were both Noah’s descendants. Noah lived about 350 years after the flood, and Shem, one of Noah’s sons, also lived about 400 years after the flood. Genesis 11 indicates that Abraham descended from Shem, and according to my study, Abraham was born about seven years before Noah died and 59 years before Shem died.
Due to the geographic dispersion of mankind at the time of the Tower of Babel, it is unlikely that Abraham knew Noah or Shem personally. Terah, Abraham’s father, began having children when he was 70 years old and I estimate that he was about 130 years old when Abraham was born.
I believe the Lord called Abraham, when he was about 65 years old, to leave Ur of the Chaldeans (located near Babylon) to relocate in Canaan. Abraham traveled as far as Haran where he remained until Terah died at the age of 205. At age 75, Abraham left Haran and continued his journey into Canaan. (Genesis 12:4)*
Nothing is written in Genesis 14 about the lineage of Melchizedek. The Apostle Paul, writing about Melchizedek, says, “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life. . . .” Paul’s words in Hebrews have made people speculate that Melchizedek was an eternal being such as Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but I do not think that was Paul’s intention.
I believe Paul contrasted Abraham’s lineage (which was traced back to Noah because lineage meant everything to the Jews) with Melchizedek’s lineage (which was absent because he was a complete stranger with no genealogical or biological record) to underscore the point that Melchizedek, despite his unknown lineage, was greater than Abraham.
Similarly, the nine kings who were contemporaries of Melchizedek in Genesis 14 had nothing written about their lineage. Obviously, they were not eternal beings. The Bible simply says that Melchizedek was King of Salem and he was also a priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18) at the same time the other kings were living on Earth.
2. What Does “The Order of Melchizedek” Mean?
The Bible says Melchizedek was a king over the province of Salem and a priest of God Most High. According to my calculations, about 130 years after the flood, God destroyed the Tower of Babel and the people of Earth were grouped by language and scattered all over the world. After the dispersion, God chose spiritual men at various times and in places to serve Him as tribal kings and priests.
Prior to the flood, such men were often called patriarchs. (Romans 9:5) Melchizedek was such a chosen man. “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.” (Hebrews 5:4)
One day, four of the nine kings united to attack the five kings who were poorly prepared to defend themselves. After defeating the five weaker kings, the four kings took their food and possessions and headed for home. These four bullies made a very bad choice because “They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. . . . When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. . . .
He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. After Abram returned from defeating [the biggest bully] Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ ” (Genesis 14:12–20, 15:1, italics and insertion mine)
The blessing pronounced upon Abraham was not just a gratuitous gesture by Melchizedek. Instead, the Holy Spirit came upon Melchizedek, showed Melchizedek who the stranger standing before him actually was, and told Melchizedek that God had chosen Abraham to be the “grandfather” of the Savior of the world and the father of many nations to come. So, Melchizedek blessed Abraham! Abraham received a second confirmation of God’s blessing through Melchizedek.
When Abraham heard Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham realized that Melchizedek was a priest for the same God that he served and he gave his tithe to Melchizedek. Abraham’s subservient action proves that he recognized Melchizedek to be a man having a higher position in God’s service than his own. This fact was highly important when Paul wrote the book of Hebrews 2,500 years later.
Fast Forward 1,000 Years
About 1,000 years after Abraham gave his tithes to Melchizedek, the Holy Spirit gave David a Messianic oracle. The Jews could not and did not figure out the meaning of this prophecy. Today, most Christians have not been able to figure it out either because they know nothing about the distinction between “Plan A” and “Plan B”.
(*Note: For a short explanation on “Plan A” and “Plan B,” see Appendix B and Appendix D in my book, Jesus’ Final Victory.) I have inserted some commentary into the passage quoted from Psalm 110 and 37 so that you can understand the meaning:
“Of David. A psalm. The Lord [the Father] says to my Lord [His Son]: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The Lord [the Father] will extend your mighty scepter from Zion [into all the world]; [and] you [my Son] will rule [from David’s throne in Jerusalem] in the midst of your enemies [for several centuries]. [However, at the appointed time] Your troops [the angels] will be willing on your day of battle [when you bring sin’s drama to an end].
Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth [my Son, you are an eternal God, after your resurrection, you will never grow old]. The Lord [the Father] has sworn and will not change his mind [this promise cannot be broken]: ‘You [my Son, have been chosen to be and] are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ [You my eternal Son, are both a king and a high priest] The Lord [the Son] is at your [the Father’s] right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. [and the kingdom given to the Son will be inherited by the meek]” (Psalm 110:1-6, insertions mine)
Paul used this oracle (which is a conversation between the Father and the Son) to prove to the Jews that their own Bible (specifically, the book of Psalms) pointed forward to a time when the Levitical priesthood, temple services, and the observances of feasts would become obsolete. The book of Psalms predicted a new order, a new priesthood, and a new covenant would occur which would terminate the Levitical system and render it obsolete. (“For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” Hebrews 7:12)
Paul explained: “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. [Notice the union of authority over church and state in Melchizedek. In the Levitical order, God did not permit this union. The high priest was one man (Aaron) and the administrative leader was another (Moses) and they were not permitted to officiate, one for the other.]
He [Melchizedek] met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means ‘king of righteousness;’ then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace.’ [Thus, Melchizedek was a king of righteousness and peace as well as a high priest of God Most High.] Without father or mother [no record of who they were], without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life [no records showing lineage, his birth, or death], like the Son of God [who is not a Levite] he [Melchizedek] remains a priest forever [all who die in the Lord will serve God as priests forever – throughout eternity].” (Hebrews 7:1–3; Revelation 1:6, insertions mine)
Paul’s point was this: “We have this hope [our hope is in Jesus Christ who will one day reign over God’s eternal kingdom in the order of Melchizedek, as king of peace and righteousness and as high priest of God Most High. Our hope in Him serves] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It [our hope in Jesus] enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain [the Most Holy Place in Heaven], where Jesus, who went before us [to Heaven], has entered on our behalf [to intercede for us in the Father’s presence]. He [Jesus] has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek [and this clearly makes the Levitical priesthood useless and obsolete because no Levite can begin to do anything like this!].” (Hebrews 6:19–20, insertions mine)
Remember, genealogy was everything to the Jews. Being a biological descendant of Abraham was considered a matter of eternal life. (Matthew 3:9; John 8:39) Paul reminded the Jews that there was no record of Melchizedek’s parents, his birth, or his death and lineage is what separated the Jews from the Gentiles, the clean from the unclean.
Therefore, Paul used the book of Genesis and challenged the Jews how “a nobody” (a person having no lineage) like Melchizedek could be greater than Abraham. Clearly, Abraham recognized that Melchizedek was greater than himself and gave his tithe to him!
Paul positioned Melchizedek above Abraham so that he could prove the Levitical priesthood was temporary from the beginning. Melchizedek was chosen to serve as God’s priest. One thousand years later, the Father promised Jesus, as recorded in the book of Psalms, that He would someday serve as high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Four thousand years after sin began, Jesus ascended to Heaven where
He now serves in Heaven’s temple in the order of Melchizedek and this makes the Levitical order on Earth totally obsolete. Given this fulfillment of prophecy, Paul gave the Jews a difficult challenge. Which temple and which man would they honor? Which man and temple will be their hope for eternal life? The man standing before the curtain in Jerusalem’s temple with its annual services, or the Man in Heaven’s temple, sitting at the right hand of God having the scars of a new covenant in His hands?
3. After the Cross, Why Do Christians Need a High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek?
There is a movement within Protestantism called “the finished atonement.” Their position is that God’s atonement for sinners was completed at the cross. I do not believe the Bible supports this conclusion. Of course, when Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for sin in full, but the atonement process, the redemption of sinners, was not completed at the cross.
The righteousness of Christ still has to be extended to sinners, one sinner at a time, and the gift of His righteousness does not occur when we receive Christ! Actually, it happens during judgment! Until we are judged, we are heirs of the promise that God will, in due time, give faith-full sinners the righteousness of Christ.
In ancient times, when a sinner put his sacrificial lamb on the altar and confessed his sins on the head of the lamb, two specific details occurred. First, the blood of the lamb was used to transfer the sinner’s guilt to the temple. Second, the priest then blessed the sinner with “the innocence of the lamb.” The innocence of the lamb represents the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which would be given to every sinner before he arrives at the wedding banquet. (Matthew 22:11–12)
How do we and when do we receive this wedding garment? The Father has set a time for the judgment of all mankind. (Acts 17:31) The one who will judge sinners to determine who is saved can only be our High Priest who serves in Heaven’s temple. (John 5:22–23; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 6:19–20) The judgment of the dead began in 1844 (Daniel 7:9–10; 8:14) and the judgment of the living will soon begin – when the censer is cast down. (Revelation 8:5; 14:6–7; 3:10)
When these details are properly aligned, two marvelous truths are evident. First, God’s atonement process for sinners involves the sinless life of Christ (Christ’s righteousness), the death of Jesus which is God’s payment for sin’s penalty, and the application of Christ’s righteousness by God’s High Priest. (Romans 5:10; John 3:16; Romans 1:17)
Second, God’s atonement process for sinners includes an investigative judgment, conducted by God’s High Priest who serves today in Heaven’s temple. This High Priest will carefully examine the records and determine who lived by faith and who lived in rebellion. In other words, Jesus will determine our eternal destiny at the appointed time. This is why we need a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. We need someone in Heaven who can save us from our sins!
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)