Having established Jesus as superior to the angels and Moses in order to explain why it would be foolish to go back to the Judaism of the old covenant (Heb. 1–6), the author of Hebrews now must deal with the central feature of the old covenant system, the priesthood and animal sacrifices. After all, if something better than that is available in Christ, there is no good reason to abandon Him. The author begins in Hebrews 7:1–3 with the priesthood.
We have already seen the author of Hebrews describe Jesus as “a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (5:6, 10; 6:20), and in chapter 7 he explains why that is so significant. First, he notes how Jesus is similar to Melchizedek. He makes his argument based on the historical account of Melchizedek found in Genesis 14, which tells us how Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, blessed Abraham and received tithes from the patriarch after he rescued Lot from a confederation of Canaanite kings (Heb. 7:1–2). This enigmatic priest is a fitting model of Jesus for several reasons. First, his name means “king of righteousness,” as it comes from the Hebrew words melek (king) and zedek (righteousness). Jesus, of course, is the prophesied Messiah who establishes His kingdom in righteousness (Isa. 9:7).
Second, Melchizedek is king of Salem (later called Jerusalem), making him a “king of peace” (Heb. 7:2). Here the author looks to the word Salem, which features the same Hebrew root as shalom, or “peace.” Jesus is Prince or King of Peace according to the promise of Isaiah 9:6.
Finally, Melchizedek “is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,” making him like Jesus, who, as the Son of God, has no beginning or end (Heb. 7:3). The author of Hebrews makes a typological connection here, for Melchizedek appears seemingly out of nowhere in Genesis 14, with no description of his parents or genealogy, and then he disappears without any mention of his death. Judging just from the narrative in Genesis, it is as if he has no origin or conclusion. Jesus is like this, only He is much greater, for according to His deity, He does not merely seem to have no beginning or end; rather, according to His divine nature, He actually has always been and will always be.
The author of Hebrews will use these similarities to prove that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood. But at this point, we see clearly that the author has the highest view of Jesus, understanding the Son to be very God of very God.
It is impossible to walk away from an honest reading of Hebrews—indeed, from an honest reading of the entire New Testament—without the highest view of the person of Christ. He is no ordinary human founder of a world religion like Muhammad or the Buddha. Instead, He is the very God of the universe. We are called to believe and defend this precious truth with all the strength God gives us.