Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Melchizedek Part 2

We were considering who Melchizedek is. The only answer to Melchizedek’s identity is that he is some sort of created heavenly being who for a time sojourned on earth to carry out the duties as priest of God. Naturally he would be located in Salem as this is God’s throne on earth. He was a king (not being born of a human sinful nature would allow him to be a king of righteousness) and priest (God‘s heavenly temple has to be served by someone), as is Christ. Is there any indication that there is an order of heavenly priests to serve God‘s temple? There most definitely is. If one studies the Old Testament scriptures about the building of the tabernacle, one finds that God is very, very particular as to its building. Even down to its dimensions. Why is that? It is because the tabernacle and all of the accompanying accoutrements were replicas of the heavenly objects. The laver, the candlesticks, the ark, the dimensions of the rooms, the priests' garments, everything was to exacting specifications as it all had a counterpart in heaven that it was patterning. Heb. 9:23-24.

Now we come to the priesthood itself. Very specific rules were laid out for the priesthood also as to how to dress, how to behave, what they could do, and of importance for this, how many there were. Why? No doubt because it also imitated a priesthood that resides in heaven and ministered to God as the intermediary between God and man in the days before the earthly priesthood was established. The priesthood of Aaron had twenty-four courses, as they were called. 1 Chron. 24. In other words, twenty-four divisions of priests. Each division served two weeks out of the year (each week six months apart) and the other two weeks were the spring and fall festival weeks when everybody worked. Do we see in the Scriptures anything in heaven that resembles this Levitical priesthood that would allow us to draw the conclusion that there is a heavenly priesthood from which the Levitical priesthood was patterned? I believe we do. Many have wondered and hypothesized as to whom the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:4 are. They sit around the throne (indicating that their work is completed as they are not standing at the ready to do anything). They wear white (naturally in heaven they would, but it is a sign of righteousness). They have crowns. Crowns are an interesting item as you either wear one by right as a king, or we can earn crowns as rewards for our Christian walk. Since as we will see, this heavenly picture is how heaven looks before the resurrection/rapture occurs, this cannot be any of the saints. Therefore the crowns symbolize kingship, so these elders are kings. They are not angels, as they are referred to as elders, (and angels don’t earn or wear crowns). And there is twenty-four of them, which is a significant number.

Taking the position that there is a heavenly priesthood, what would we expect would define that priesthood? First, this order of priests would be retired, as Christ is now the heavenly and only priest between God and man. That means they wouldn’t be working, so they could be sitting around and only worshiping God. That’s exactly what these elders are doing. Next, they would be wearing white (a given). They would be near the throne as a priest’s position is to be ministering near God, although their only job now is to worship. It is customary even today to refer to priests and especially retired priests as elders, since the retirees no longer are acting priests, although they still maintain the rank of priests. That’s what this group is called. A heavenly priesthood would obviously be without parents, or children, have no birth or death, still be alive, and still be priests by rank, being specially created beings to live and minister both in heaven and on earth. Remember no human can look on God and live, so they couldn’t be human and live in heaven, although as heavenly beings they can live on earth. While we aren’t told those last facts about the twenty-four elders, they do fit the first part of the description and as we know they aren‘t humans, (the resurrection/rapture not having happened) they most certainly fit the second part of the description. Interestingly the second part of our hypothetical description exactly describes Melchizedek’s priesthood and order as outlined in Hebrews. Since we see Melchizedek on earth and not in heaven, we cannot say that the first part of the description does not apply to him, in fact it probably most certainly does.

Heavenly priests would be priests forever, as they don’t die, so they hold the rank of priest, while not doing the work of a priest. Again, a description of Melchizedek. If Melchizedek is a heavenly priest as described above, and a king as well as a priest, in heaven he and his order would have crowns. So do these elders. The coincidence is too great to miss. We have 1) a hypothetical description (albeit a most apt one based on Christ's priesthood) of what a heavenly priesthood would be. 2) A man whose life is defined as fitting that description and 3) a group of elders who also fit the description. It would seem all three are describing the same thing. An order of priests to which Melchizedek and Christ belong, that order being the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4. That Christ would be of an order of priests that fit this description makes a great deal of sense. He could not be of the Levitical system, because they are not able to do the actual work of priesthood duties in heaven. Christ had to be of the heavenly order as that is where he ministers. Therefore, the inescapable conclusion by putting all the pieces together is that the elders are an order of heavenly priests and that Melchizedek is one of the twenty-four elders. The only reason Melchizedek is mentioned, while the others are not, is because of his interaction with Abraham. As an added note, as mentioned before there were approximately 2400 years between Adam and Moses and the giving of the law. That would mean that if each priest spent one hundred years on earth in succession, it would cover the time until the Levitical priesthood took over. Since I don’t think God ever wanted to leave man without a mediator between Himself and man, it makes perfect sense that he would create a priesthood to cover that time period, one that could minister both to Him in heaven and mankind on earth.

Again, I realize that this seems like a convoluted description, but I think it can be seen that the improbable is in all likelihood the truth, as it fits all the pieces together in perfect harmony and answers not only one mystery (that of Melchizedek's identity), but a second mystery (who the twenty-four elders are).

I believe that when we don't understand something in God's word, it is because we have not studied the Scriptures in their totality enough. Many mysteries and questions are answered the more you study the entire Bible and put the pieces together. I think that this is one of those times.

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