The Rule of the Priest-King
“When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (vv. 12–14).- Hebrews 10:11–14
Stressing the finality and sufficiency of the priestly work of Christ in comparison to the ministry of the Levitical priests, the author of Hebrews states that those who trust in Him have been sanctified by His offering of Himself once for all (Heb. 10:10). Yet although Jesus’ priestly work of sacrifice came to an end at Calvary, that does not mean He has stopped working in our behalf. In fact, His sacrifice was a step toward His coming into His reign over all, a reign that benefits us now and forever. That is what we learn in today’s passage.
Hebrews 10:11 begins with a contrast between the ongoing sacrificial work of the Levitical priests and the completed priestly offering of our Lord. As we see, the ineffectual nature of the old covenant priestly system is seen in that the Levitical priests remained standing on a daily basis. Their work of atonement never ended. There was always a priest at the altar, sacrificing animals and sprinkling blood so that the Lord would pass over sinners and not destroy them. If their work had been fully effectual, sacrifices would have stopped under the old covenant (see vv. 1–4). The priests would have sat down, having accomplished the full cleansing of the people that the Lord intended.
Under the old covenant, the priests never sat down because they offered sacrifices that could not truly atone for sin fully and finally; thus, their work could never end. Jesus, on the other hand, sat down at the Father’s right hand after He offered His sacrifice, “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (vv. 12–13). Here the author of Hebrews proclaims what theologians often call the “session of Christ,” His being installed as King of kings and Lord of lords. His priestly sacrifice was part of the means to that end, and its perfection is seen in that He sat down after offering it. Moreover, the session of Christ means that He is not merely our High Priest but is also our powerful King. If all that Jesus did was offer Himself as a sacrifice, we would have no guarantee that His work could be effectually applied to His people. But because He is King, nothing can stop Him from bringing to completion the work He has started. He will reign until all His foes have been put under His feet (v. 13), including the remnants of our sinful nature that plague us.
Thus, we can be confident that Jesus has perfected for all time those who are now being sanctified (v. 14). As King of kings and Lord of lords, He simply cannot fail.
John Calvin writes, “If then our faith seeks Christ sitting on God’s right hand, and recumbs quietly on him as there sitting, we shall at length enjoy the fruit of his victory; yea, when our foes, Satan, sin, death, and the whole world are vanquished, and when corruption of our flesh is cast off, we shall triumph for ever together with our head.” Keeping the reign of King Jesus in view gives us great assurance. Because He is Lord of all, His will for us must be accomplished.
Passages for Further Study