JESUS—SURETY OF A BETTER COVENANT(Hebrews 7:20-22) (cont.)
That “Jesus” is the surety of a better covenant is a historical fact. It is an accomplished fact in Christ’s death, resurrection and in his glorious ascension. We see “Jesus” crowned with glory and honor. He is thus crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, in order that he might, by the grace of God, taste death for all. (Hebrews 2:9) Hence, Jesus has become the surety of a better covenant.
The term “surety” is basically a legal term. Such it is in our daily language. It means to engage, to pledge. It means that one is the guarantor that the terms of the contract or of the covenant be fulfilled. Such a “surety” assures the payment of the note. Such is the meaning of the term in our parlance.
We must not lose sight of the fact that here Jesus is not simply the surety that the guilt of his people will be paid; he does not merely give such a promissory note so to speak. On the contrary he is the surety of the Covenant of God. He will bring about the ultimate perfection and realization of the covenant, so that the tabernacle of God shall be with man. He will realize what John sees in visionary form in the book of Revelation “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned to meet her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God . . . .” (Revelation 21:2, 3) Jesus is the surety that the salvation which he has begun will be completed even unto the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to notice that Luther in his translation of the term “surety” (egguos) translates this with a word which means: executor. The term in the German isAusrichter. He is one who will execute the will of God and will bring it to completion. This seems to be a more expressive translation than the Holland translates which is “Borg.” This latter term suggests merely that Jesus gives a promissory note to pay, and guarantees the eternal salvation of all the elect. The German translation expresses the real, permanent and ultimate execution of the covenant, making it a reality in the hearts of all the redeemed.
For such a high priest Christ has now already become!
He is such a high priest up till the present moment, and he shall remain such a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus became such a high priest of a better covenant. Yes, the Old Testament covenant of the shadows was good. It foreshadowed the eternal blessings of salvation. However, it was not attended by the oath of God which spoke of the fulfillment of the promises. In that priesthood of Aaron the covenant blessings were not yea and Amen. In it God could not swear by His own holiness. But in Jesus the Lord Jehovah Himself comes to fulfill His own promise which he had confirmed by an oath. When he sent Jesus, Jehovah saves, He could swear by Himself. Here is not the weakness of the flesh, but the power of an endless life. Here is one who said: I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. Of this one the Father said: this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this one said: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God has been gloried in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.” And this glorification is God declaring himself fully in the Son in all his power, grace, mercy, loving kindness and endless perfection and faithfulness. (John 13:31 ff.)
This Jesus, Jehovah-saves, is the perfect executor of the promise of God, and the One who will realize God’s covenant perfectly and bring many sons to glory. (Hebrews 2:9) The Surety of the better covenant is at once also the author of eternal salvation!
ABLE TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST (Hebrews 7:23-25)
Jesus has a priesthood which cannot be transmitted to another priest who would conceivably follow him. There is none to follow the Christ. He lives forever! In this, too, his priesthood excels that of the priesthood of Aaron and the covenant of the shadows and types. The contrast here is drawn sharply and distinctly. “And they truly were many priests . . . but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” We have seen in an earlier essay that the priesthood of Aaron was according to a carnal commandment. Now we see that this priesthood had many high priests who succeeded each other. According to certain Jewish writers, (see Polus and Gill) there were eighteen high priests in the first temple, and in the second temple there were more than three hundred. That there were so very, very many in the second temple, points up how petrified and corrupted the priesthood had become during this period, after the Babylonian captivity up till the time of Christ. It is well-known that during this time the high priesthood was viewed as to its political advantage towards the nations which held Israel in subjugation. The priesthood was purchased with money; he who paid the most received the priesthood by the nod of the rulers and sovereigns of the world. It is said that the priesthood changed hands once in every twelve months.
Not so the priesthood of Christ. Christ remains unto eternity. His is a priesthood which cannot change hands. Christ’s priesthood continues on. It does not simply continue as long as this present world exists, and then it ceases to be. Not so. It is a priesthood which in the truest and strictest sense of the word abides forever. In the endless ages to come, after the Parousia, Christ will still be a priest. He will continue a priest forever in heavenly glory. It may perhaps be said that such is the aspect of the priesthood wherein the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek differs from the priesthood of Aaron. The priesthood of Aaron only spoke of sin and its removal. Even this, it is true, it could not accomplish. But this priesthood remains even after sin and guilt are removed—even in the perfected state of all things!
We are here reminded of what the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema writes in his Reformed Dogmaticsconcerning the difference between the priesthood of Aaron and that of Christ, a priest after the order of Melchizedek. “What then is the. difference and distinction between the two orders of priesthood, that of Aaron and that of Melchizedek? We may at once, on the basis of Scripture, note two points of difference. The first is that while among Israel the priesthood and the royal offices were separated, so that one and the same person could not function in the both offices, they were combined in Melchizedek. He was a royal priest. And the second point of difference is that while the priesthood of Aaron in its specific meaning was temporal and must come to an end as soon as the perfect sacrifice was made, that of Melchizedek is everlasting. (Page 377.) Again we read in the sameReformed Dogmatics on page 379 the following, “And this priesthood is without end: it is everlasting. This was and could not be true of the priesthood of Aaron. It represented but a phase of the priestly calling of Christ,—that which had become necessary on account of sin. And this phase could not be everlasting. It belonged to the way the High Priest must travel to realize His everlasting priesthood. It was part of the work which must be performed to build the house of God. . . . . This phase of the priesthood of Christ . . . was finished when the High Priest laid down His life as a ransom for many. But the priesthood of Christ did not reach its end on Golgotha; it is everlasting. He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Forever He consecrates Himself and His people and all things in perfect love to the Father. And presently he will come again to perfect the work the Father gave Him to do, to finish the house of God, and to establish it in heavenly beauty in the new Jerusalem, where the tabernacle of God shall be with man. (see above). And in that everlasting house of God Christ will forever be the perfect King-Priest, the Ring of righteousness, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Yes, this Jesus has a priesthood which cannot be changed. He is a priest forever. Wherefore he can save those to the uttermost, who go through him unto God. He is able to do this. He is the mighty God in human flesh. He is the good shepherd who is mighty. No one can pluck us out of His hand. He has come to do the will of the Father. And this is the Father’s will, that all that the Father gave Him He should save, and that He should raise them up in the last day.
It is upon the intercessory prayer that He is the surety of our being saved to the end. He ever lives to intercede for us. On the basis of His expiatory sacrifice brought for us he is our advocate with the Father. It is rather difficult to form a conception of this intercessory prayer of Christ. We do not follow him into the Most Holy place of heaven itself to hear Him pray. We do know that He intercedes for us with the Father, even as the Holy Spirit of Christ comforts us in our hearts. Perhaps we may say that the substance of this prayer we have expounded to us in the Sacerdotal prayer of Christ as given in the John 17. There the Savior prays to the Father as our High Priest. This is truly a grand prayer in content and structure. First, the Savior prays for himself, that the Father may glorify him with his own glory, which he had with God from before the foundation of the earth. The Son has had this glory with God as to His chief place as the King-Priest in God’s temple and upon His throne at God’s right hand of majesty. Secondly, the Savior prays for the apostles who will go forth and preach the Word—the apostles to whom the Lord has revealed the Name of the Father. Thirdly, Jesus prays for the entire church which shall believe through the preaching of the apostolic Word. And finally we have that amazing “Father, I will” section of this prayer. He wills that the entire church may be with him in glory, to see the glory which he had with God from before the foundation of the world. Thus this prayer emphasizes the “saving to the uttermost.” Beginning in the eternal counsel, this prayer reaches out through the ages, till the perfection of all things.
Such is the intercession of Christ!
He is able to pray such a High-priestly prayer. He ever lives to pray. It is even his “Father I will” which is the basis of the righteousness of the New Jerusalem. He is, indeed, the surety of the better covenant—able to save to the uttermost.