Another lesson from the Old Testament for believers today is the pattern of the priesthood and the sacrifices as a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. The book of Hebrews compares and contrasts the priesthood and sacrifice pattern of the Old Testament with the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Seeing the connection between Christ’s work and the Old Testament pattern strengthens our faith to believe that Jesus’ death on the cross really was the final and sufficient sacrifice for sin.
In Jesus we have a better hope because we have a better priest. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:19-20). Our better hope is based on Jesus being a better priest after the order of Melchizedek – the eternal priest – rather than after the order of Levi – priests of the old covenant.
“But He with an oath through the One who said to Him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever.” ‘ So much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb 7:21-22). As a priest forever, Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant than the one associated with the former priesthood.
“For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb 7:26-27). Jesus, the better priest, became Jesus, the better sacrifice when “He once for all offered up Himself.”
Christ’s death was a better sacrifice. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:13-15).
Christ’s better sacrifice – and the new covenant it initiated – has an eternal and a present component. On the eternal front, our transgressions are paid in full by Christ’s blood and we have obtained an “eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15). On the present-day front, Christ’s blood “cleanses our conscience to serve the living God” (Heb 9:14); to live godly lives. When Christ died, our old sin nature died with Him and we have been raised with Christ to walk in a new life, to walk in a new resurrection power (Rom 6:4).
“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb 9:24-25,28). Christ’s first coming secured our initial salvation and our eternal destiny. He saved us when He bore our sins on the cross. Christ’s second coming will secure our final salvation; our ultimate rescue from this world to live forever with Him. Even so, come Lord Jesus!