These Last Days

The era of the Levitical priesthood terminated with the superior “word” revealed by God in His Son. 

Sunrise Photo by Terry Tan De Hao on Unsplash
God has spoken His superior “
word” in the Son “at the end of these days.” The clause may reflect the idea attested elsewhere by the New Testament that the “last days” began following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Certainly, its use here signals that a significant new era began with his arrival - [Photo by Terry Tan De Hao on Unsplash].

In many parts and in many ways of old, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets at the end of these days, He spoke to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages, who, being an eradiated brightness of his glory, and an exact representation of his being, also bearing up all things by the utterance of his power, purification of sins having achieved, sat down on the right hand of the majesty in high places.”

The letter does refer briefly to final events. For example, on the day when God “again brings the firstborn into the habitable earth,” all the angels will worship him. Faithful Abraham was a sojourner on the earth who looked for the “city whose builder and maker is God.” Likewise, the saints of the new covenant are on their way to the “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” - (Hebrews 1:5-6, 11:10, 12:22).

THE ISSUE

However, the letter shows little interest in prophetic indicators or final events expected to occur prior to the return of Christ. It is far more focused on the present situation of its audience and what the church must do to avoid apostasy. The final judgment is mentioned but as a warning against the failure to heed the word of the Son. Everlasting punishment is the inevitable result of disobedience and apostasy.

The congregation was facing renewed pressure from outsiders, and some members were contemplating a return to the local synagogue to escape persecution. But that would mean once again practicing the rites of the Levitical system, which is why the letter spends considerable time demonstrating the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, sacrifice, and covenant over the rites and sacrifices of the “first covenant.”

Thus, it is much more likely that the “end of these days” has in view the new era in salvation history inaugurated by Jesus. Having “achieved purification of sin,” he “sat down” forever in the presence of God where he now intercedes as high priest for his people. His victory over sin ushered in the long-promised new covenant, and that means the old one has reached its termination point. The now obsolete rituals and sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood are no longer in force.

If there had been “perfection through the Levitical priesthood,” there would have been no need to install a new priesthood “according to the order of Melchizedek,” and a change in priesthood also means a “change of the law” – (Hebrews 7:11-12).

The animal sacrifices of the old covenant were only “shadows of the good things to come, but not the very image of the things,” and as such, they were incapable of “perfecting those who drew near” the altar. In contrast, the Son “offered one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God… For by one offering he has perfected forever them who are sanctified” – (Hebrews 10:1-14).

THE NEW ORDER

The point made from the fact that Jesus “sat down on the right hand of God” is not that he now reigns supreme over the Cosmos, as true as that may be, but that he now is our “high priest, the minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle.”

The Levitical priests served in a manmade tent that was a mere “copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” whereas, the Son intercedes forever in the true and greater tabernacle “pitched by God” – (Hebrews 8:1-13).

And as our high priest, he has mediated the “better covenant that has been enacted upon better promises.” If the first covenant had been perfect, there would have been no need for the second one. And by promising the “new covenant” that would accomplish the forgiveness of sins, Scripture declared the first one “old and becoming obsolete and near to vanishing away.”

Thus, with the advent of the greater “high priest after the rank of Melchizedek,” the time of the old Levitical priesthood with its rites and sacrifices has reached its intended end. In him, the new and final era of salvation history has commenced.



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