Centrality of the Son in the Kingdom of God is a 7-part series. You can find others here:
- Introduction, Summary, and Promulgation of the Kingdom (8/27/18)
- Enthronement of Son (9/3/18)
- Qualities of the Kingdom of God – Heb 2:1-4:13 (9/10/18)
- The Restoration Ministry of Jesus (9/17/18)
- Kingdom and Covenant Relationship & Hebrews as God’s People (9/24/18)
- Promise & Oath: First Covenant Incomplete (10/1/18)
- New Covenant Complete, Summary & Conclusion (10/8/18)
Kingdom and Covenant Relationship – Heb. 4:14-8:13
Kingdom Covenant (Heb. 4:14-5:10)
The introduction of the high priestly function of Jesus in Hebrews 2:17 and 3:1 links the Kingdom of God to covenant. After delineating the restoration ministry of Jesus, Hebrews makes a significant effort to expound the way in which the Kingdom of God in Christ is, in fact, a new covenant. This covenant is evidenced in the high priestly ministry of Jesus (Heb 4:14-5:10), in the promise and oath of God (Heb 5:11-6:20), and in the contrasts between the covenants (Heb 7:1-8:13).
High Priestly Ministry
The dual function of Christ’s high priestly ministry is reintroduced in these verses of Hebrews for more involved discussion. His transcendence was emphasized from chapter one, verse one. Hebrews 2:9, 14, 17-18 touched on the intercessory role of Jesus as one who actually participated in the human condition. We are now told that Jesus, the Son of God, has passed through the heavens (4:14). This speaks of his transcendence, his eternal character. He is seated at the “right hand of majesty” (1:3). Hebrews 8:2 adds he is a “minister in the sanctuary and the true tent” (tabernacle). Jesus is, in fact, a great high priest. He is “great” because his service is in heaven.
High Priest as Intercessor
He is also “great” because he performs a complementary function of being an intercessor for human beings. Hebrews 4:15-5:3 explains more about this human related side of Jesus. Although his ministry is in heaven, that service is for the benefit of humankind. These verses reassure us that Jesus as a great high priest understands his flock. He has experienced our state. In this matter he has similar qualities to the priests “chosen from among men.” The one who introduces us to the Kingdom of God comprehends the character of the inductee as well as that of the Kingdom.
Exalted by God
Hebrews 1:5-6 speaks of the exaltation of Christ in his enthronement over the Kingdom of God. Here in Hebrews 5:4-6 the author points out that Jesus was also exalted by God to be a high priest among men. The Son did not exalt himself to be high priest any more than Aaron did to become the first of the Levitical priests. The exaltation verse quoted in Hebrews 1:5 (Ps 2:7) is repeated in Hebrews 5:5 and then linked with Psalms 110:4 “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (5:6). The eternal quality of his priesthood (Melchizedek) parallels the nature of the Kingdom he rules (Heb 1:8) and that of the salvation he gives (Heb 5:9). His exaltation is earthly as well as heavenly.
Earthly Nature Crucial to Salvation
It is precisely the earthly nature of the Son that enables him to accomplish salvation for humans by restoring the Kingdom God intended humans to have. The cyclic argument of Hebrews retouches the points made in Hebrews 2:9-10. The Word became a man and suffered the human predicament. He went through death. But because of his “godly fear” God delivered him from death giving him victory over it and he was “made perfect.” The Greek word τελειωθεὶς (Heb 5:9) is that word translated perfect which we saw in Hebrews 2:10. It means he achieved his goal of restoring dominion to humankind. That is, he reintroduced the Kingdom of God into human existence; or as Hebrews 5:9 expresses it, “he became the source [cause] of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Obedience is another linking word in the Hebrews discourse: Hebrews 2:2, 5:8-9, 11:8, and 13:17. We see it indirectly in verses about unbelief).
This human-directed side of Jesus’ ministry not only causes humankind’s salvation but it also results in Jesus “being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:10). The word “designated” in this verse is not the same as “called” (καλούμενος) of verse 4. The Greek word προσαγορευθεὶς carries a meaning more like saluted. 1For that which he has accomplished, God “salutes” Christ as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews as God’s New People (Heb. 5:11-6:12)
Readers Compared With High Priest
After the abbreviated description of the high priestly function of Jesus in Hebrews 4:14-5:10, the author of Hebrews makes some comparisons of this role with that of the readers. Hebrews 5:11-6:12 is important in emphasizing the necessity of mature faith on the part of the Hebrews. Their failure to grow beyond the old covenant and live victoriously in the new will result in catastrophe for them. Hebrews 4:15-5:10 touches on the high priestly role of Jesus as it relates to the heavenly sanctuary, covenant and salvation. Hebrews 5:11-6:12 in turn compares the attitudes and faith of the readers toward these three aspects of the Kingdom. The great high priest Jesus, the Son of God, “has passed through the heavens” (4:14) while the Hebrews are “dull of hearing” (5:11). Following the old covenant pattern Jesus is exalted as the high priest of a new covenant (5:5-6) while the readers have not left the “elementary doctrines of…” the old covenant (listed in 6:1-2). Jesus is the “source of eternal salvation” (5:9) while they are “sluggish” (6:12) and could be in danger of not achieving the salvation Christ has gained for them (6:4-8).
Readers Have a Future
After comparing the faith of the readers to the standard of the great high priest, the author of Hebrews encourages them to move on from the old covenant immaturity to live victoriously in the new covenant. The hypothetical “those” of 6:4 is contrasted with the endearment “beloved” in 6:9. The writer does not feel his “beloved” are going to fall away from the promised new covenant. He is “sure of better things that belong to [their] salvation” (Heb 6:9). He urges them to realize “the full assurance of hope” (Heb 6:11) because those who have restored dominion and restored hope should also gain restored rest. That is, all of these are fruits of the promises mentioned in 6:12 which are inherited by those who have faith and patience. At this point the author has brought the reader to the role of the promise and oath in the Kingdom/Covenant relationship.
- Wuest,102 ↩