All languages have figures of speech, words as symbols. Such language gives the tongues of the world a variety and richness of expression. The Bible is no exception to this because the Bible is written in human language. Every kind of figurative language can be found there. Understanding what is meant by a particular figure is essential to understanding what the Bible is saying to us. However, we will not review at this point all figurative language in general. We are concerned at the moment with one particular area, that of shadow and substance, type and antitype.
We are familiar with seeing our own shadow on a sunny day. The shadow has a general outline of our bodies and may or may not have a general likeness to us; it depends on the angle and intensity of the light. As children, we probably have had parties where a shadow outline was made of our profile. A table lamp, with shade removed, is placed in proper place so that our shadow profile is cast on a piece of construction paper. A pencil marks the outline of that shadow which is then cut to that line and pasted on a differently colored piece of paper. That profile might be more recognizable as being "us" than just being out on a sunny day and casting a long shadow on the ground or a wall. The shadow image on the paper is not us, but resembles us in some identifiable ways. Colossians 2:16-17 says—
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.”
The body of Christ is the substance in this figure and the items specified amount to but a shadow of that substance. They are not the reality but a resemblance in some way. As expected, the word “shadow,” which comes from the Greek word skia, means a shadow caused by the interception of light and then, of some reality. Hebrews 10:1 makes the contrast, “For the law having a shadow (skia) of the good things to come, not the very image (eikwn) of the things.” The word eikwn refers to the actual substance, such as a statue, that would cast the shadow, skia.
Much of the Old Testament points to the fulfillment of God’s plan for the redemp-tion of mankind. It is a thread that runs through all of Old Testament history. It involved the coming of the Christ, His death, resurrection, priesthood, rulership, the New Covenant and the gospel. Other than what is found in specific statements of prophecies, figurative language also pointed to these things. The terms copy, type and antitype, pattern, shadow, figure and parable are all used to explain these connections between the Old and New Testaments.
The Greek words, tupos and antitupos are the source of the terms type and antitype, directly referring to figures of speech. In Romans 5:14, Adam is said to be a figure of Christ. The word tupos is used here and refers to a type or pattern. Adam is the type, Jesus is the antitype. Some of the details of that figure are given in the verses following in Romans 5; sin entered the world in Adam, salvation is in Christ. More details on this subject are spelled out for us in I Corinthians 15 where contrasts and likeness between Adam and Christ are given and lessons then drawn from them. The contrasts and likenesses between Adam and Christ cannot be inflated by adding likenesses not stated in scripture. The idea that Adam was the "Federal Head" of the human race and thus Jesus the "substitute/representative" for the human race is not found in these verses.
Antitupos means corresponding to a type, presenting some comparison between two things. The type is a shadow cast by the antitype. The New Testament contains the substance, the revelation of that which is only a shadow in the Old Testament. I Peter 3:20-21 says—
"...that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was in preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
"After a true likeness" is antitupos, or, in the antitype. But, only in the specific likeness drawn by Peter are we to understand the type and antitype. The Noah family's salvation from death by the ark floating on the water was God's provision and was a type that compares to our salvation from spiritual death involving water. We cannot press the figure further than what is specified. We cannot take the ark and its dimensions, number of openings, floors, number of inhabitants, material of construction or anything else about it and try to make a connection of type and antitype in the New Testament with those items as well. Neither can we say that baptism is only a person floating on top of the water because that's what the ark did. Again, I point out that a figure cannot be pushed beyond the likeness drawn in scripture. Neither can we arbitrarily take items in scriptures and set up a type and antitype connection where none exists. Note—
"For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." Hebrews 9:24.
The type and antitype here is that of the Old Testament High Priest, on the day of Atonement, entering the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of the sacrifice for sins. This corresponds to Jesus' entering heaven in order to complete His offering for sin.
Parables are familiar to us because Jesus taught with parables. The Greek word, parabole, means a placing of one thing beside another, a comparison. Hebrews 11:19 gives a portion of the account of Abraham's offering Isaac. Abraham's faith was so strong that he knew that even if he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, as God instructed, God would raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill His assurance that through Isaac the promises would come. So, it says—
"accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a figure receive him back."
The word figure here is actually parabole. Though Isaac was not literally killed and then raised from the dead, there was a figurative sense in which that happened.
The events of the Old Testament day of Atonement are presented in Hebrews 9. After detailing what the High Priest did on that day, verse 9 says—
"which is a figure for the time present; according to which are offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect."
The parable is found in setting the events in the Old Testament alongside current events of the New Testament that tell us what Jesus did for our salvation.
Copy comes from the Greek word hupodeigma, meaning a copy or imitation. Old Testament priests and offerings presented a "copy and shadow of the heavenly things," Hebrews 8:5. Hebrews 9:23 says the same things, referring to these items as "copies of the things in the heavens."
The words we have just looked at are similar in their meaning and use. Hebrews 8:4-5 says—
"Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are those who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve that which is a copy (hupodeigma) and shadow (skia) of the heavenly things, even as Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern (tupos) that was showed thee in the mount."
Here, hupodeigma, skia and tupos are all used in the same context. Hebrews 9:23-24 uses hupodeigma and antitupos as follows—
"It was necessary therefore that the copies (hupo-deigma) of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern (antitupos) to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us."
Old Testament practices were copies, shadows, likenesses, that were patterned after New Testament events. Some people think that the New Testament was copied after the Old. But, they have it turned around. The Old was a copy of the New, contained in figurative representation.
Did the Jews during the Old Testament system understand that the sacrifices they offered pointed to the coming sacrifice of the Messiah? J.J. Reeve in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, page 2651, points out—
"There is no hint that their minds were directed to think of the Coming One as their sacrifice, foreshadowed by their offerings. That was the one thing the nation could not and would not understand, and to this day the cross is their chief stumbling-block ...We prefer to regard the sacrificial system as a great religious educational system, adapted to the capacity of the people at that age, intended to develop right conceptions of sin, proper appreciation of the holiness of God, correct ideas of how to approach God, a familiarity with the idea of sacrifice as the fundamental thing in redemption, life and service to God and man."
Thus, Jesus told the Jews—
"Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me," John 5:39.
"Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, on whom ye have set your hope. For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words," John 5:45-47.
Of course, not all items found in the Old Testament, even in the sacrificial system, are foreshadowing something in the New Testament. Much was just window dressing and a means to focus attention on the real figure. The Bible is our only guide in the matter.
The Day Of Atonement
There were numerous daily sacrifices that allowed one to remain ceremonially clean or to become cleansed after some transgression. Leviticus 16 contains the instructions for the Day of Atonement. As far as sacrifice was concerned, it involved a young bull-ock, a ram and two goats. The young bullock was a sin offering for the high priest and his house and the ram was for a burnt offering. The high priest was to adorn himself in all of the finery of his office. Incense was placed by him on the altar of incense. He then took the blood of the bullock and sprinkled it with his finger on and in front of the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place; this was done seven times. One of the goats having been chosen as the animal of sacrifice, and the another as the "scape-goat," was then slain and its blood collected. The blood was taken into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled in the same manner as the bullock. Then blood from both the bullock and the goat was placed on the horns of the altar to cleanse it. The sprinkling of the goat's blood was a sacrifice for sins, an atonement for the sins of the people. After all of this was finished, then the second goat was brought, the priest laid both his hands on its head. The sins of the people were "placed" on the head of the goat which would then "carry" those sins into the wilderness.
The English term, "scapegoat," comes from the word "es-cape." It is literally, "escapegoat." It refers in English to the goat being sent, or escaping, into the wilderness. However, in the Old Testament text, it's said that the scapegoat was for "Azazel," except no one knows for sure what Azazel means. W.E. Vine insists that—
"In Leviticus 16:10,26, the rendering should be 'the goat for the complete sending away'; the root azal means 'to remove completely,'" An Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words, page 121.
That is probably the truth of its meaning but I'm not going to waste space here going over such a controversy; it is not that important, anyway. What we do know is that the first goat, the sacrifice for sin, was "for Jehovah." The second, the scapegoat, was for "Azazel." The best we can do is just view what took place with this scapegoat, understand its order on the Day of Atonement and its meaning, regardless of what Azazel means.
The Heart of the Gospel
The cross is the focal point of most people's attention when we discuss the sacrifice of Jesus. The literal cross is no doubt the most dramatic part of His sacri-fice. However, if Jesus had just died on that cross, had been buried and stayed in the tomb, there would have been no sacrifice for sins. Even with all of the emphasis in scripture on the death of Jesus, just His death alone was not enough. Under the Old Law, the death of the animal of sacrifice and the offering of that sacrifice were two different things. Just so with the sacrifice of Jesus. His death and the offering of His blood were two different events and occurred in two quite different places. In arguing the resurrection of all men, I Corinthians 15:16-19 says—
"For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable."
There had to be the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. These were facts prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus said it, Luke 24:46, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day."
From the beginning of gospel preaching on Pentecost, Acts 2, the message that was preached was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We find it again in Acts 13 and 17 and in I Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul declares the gospel that he had preached to them before. It involved the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Yet, the point of it all was not just that someone was tortured to death. Others had gone through as horrible a death before the death of Jesus. The importance of Jesus' death was not the intensity of His suffering nor the number of hours He had to endure it; other servants of God had experienced intense suffering over long periods of time. It was not just that He was raised from the dead because He wasn't the first to be raised from the dead. It wasn't just to prove that God had the power to raise someone from the dead because God had done that before. The uniqueness of Lord's suffering, death, burial and resurrection is found in who He was, the purpose of His doing it, and what followed His resurrection that was also necessary to redemption.
The application of the Psalm 2 is found in four areas. First, the universal authority of the coming Son over all men. This position of authority is fulfilled following the resurrection of Jesus and is connected to that—
"...which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come," Ephesians 1:20-21.
Second, the phrase of Psalm 2:7, "thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee," is fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. Paul said in Acts 13:32-34—
"And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he hath spoken on this wise, I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David."
The word "Son" here has no reference to His origin, but rather to His position.
Third, the sentence in Psalm 2:6, "Yet, have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion," is also fulfilled in the events of His resurrection. Acts 2:29-31 says—
"Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption."
Fourth, after speaking of the several roles of the Son, such as prophet, priest and king, in Hebrews 1:1-4, Verse 5 says—
"For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee?"
It is mentioned again in Hebrews 5:5-6—
"So Christ also glorified not himself to be made high priest, but he that spake unto him, thou are my Son, this day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
His universal authority, being a Son, a King and high priest, all refer to events connected with His resurrection, not His crucifixion, even though He couldnÕt have been raised from the dead if He had not died. He did not have universal authority, sit upon His throne nor become a high priest until after His resurrection, in fact not until He entered heaven itself after His ascension. Hebrews 1:1-3 adds His being a prophet to the list. Notice how he ties universal power, priest, king, Sonship together, as it is in Psalm 2—
"God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Psalm 110 is another psalm foretelling the positions of the coming Messiah. The very first verse is well known, being quoted by Jesus and Peter—
"The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
Peter precedes the quotation of this verse by saying, Acts 2:34—
"For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself..."
Peter then quotes Psalm 110:1. The position of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God is connected with His ascension following His resurrection. According to Psalm 110, He would rule in the midst of His enemies, have universal dominion, which parallels Psalm 2. In addition, he would be the judge of all, verses 5-6. Verse 4 says—
"The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
As Melchizedek was priest and king at the same time, so Jesus is the same. This connects both Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 together in Hebrews 5:5-6, where both Psalms are quoted together. Hebrews 8:1 says—
"Now in the things which we are saying the chief point is this: We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."
Jesus became high priest after His ascension into heaven and that role is coexistent with His universal authority and kingship. It's not strange then to find this role of His priesthood developed from Hebrews 5 through chapter 10.
Both Sacrifice and High Priest At The Same Time
Thus, the high priesthood of Jesus is the substance of which the events of the Old Testament Day of Atonement were but a shadow, just a fleshly copy. The direct New Testament reference to the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, and its New Testament application, appears in Hebrews 9. Verses 1-8 give a detailed account of the tabernacle and the offering for sins. Once in the year, the high priest, with the animal's blood, entered the Most Holy Place and made the offering "for himself and for the errors of the people." Verses 9-12 says—
"....which is a figure for the time present; according to which are offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect, being only (with meats and drinks and divers washings) carnal ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation. But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption."
There were two parts to the offering for sin. First, the animal had to be slain and it's blood taken. Second, the high priest then took the blood into the Most Holy Place and offered it there before the mercy seat, the seat of God located on the Ark of the Covenant. If the high priest in the Old Testament had just killed the goat for the sacrifice and stopped at that point, there could not have been any offering for atonement. The blood of the goat had to be offered in the Most Holy Place. As we before stated, if Jesus had just died on the cross and nothing more, then there could not have been a sacrifice for us. The shedding of the blood was only part of the sacrifice. So, Jesus shed His blood on the cross, which corresponded to the slaying of the sacrificial animal in the Old Testament. After shedding His blood, and now functioning as High Priest, Jesus entered into the heavenly Holy of Holies to complete the offering for sins with His own blood. Hebrews 9:22-26 says—
"And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission. It was necessary therefore that the copies of the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the ages hath he been made manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
This is why the death of Jesus on the cross was not enough. He had to be raised from the dead, ascend into heaven and complete the offering for sin as high priest. Only then was the sacrifice for our sins completed.
Not only did the sacrifice of Jesus take away sins but it also removed the guilt man feels; it cleansed the conscience. Hebrews 9:9-10 says that the animal sacrifices of the Old Law could not "as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect." They were only "carnal ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation." Hebrews 10:1-4 says—
"For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh. Else would they not have ceased to be offered? because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins."
Some have gotten things turned around in Hebrews 10:1-4. An old view is that on the Day of Atonement, God "rolled their sins forward" until the next year when they had to make the same sacrifice, at which time, God "rolled their sins forward" for another year. This was, supposedly, the "remembrance made of sins year by year" of verse 3. However, that is the reverse of what was true. The subject of these passages is the condition of, and effect on, the people. The "remembrance" was on the part of the people, not God. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifices brought to the mind of the people that they still had their sins and the next year they would have to do the same thing over again. These sacrifices could neither take away sins nor "cleanse the conscience." Hebrews 9:13-14 says—
"For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, ... cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
The full offering of Jesus accomplished what the Law could not do. Not only was sin and guilt taken away, but the conscience of man could be clean. Hebrews 10:19-22 says—
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water."
A second consequence of His priesthood was in taking away the authority of the Old Law. Hebrews 7:1-9 presents, first, the likeness between the priesthood of Melchi-zedek and that of Jesus. Then, verses 4-10 show that the priesthoods of both Melchizedek and Jesus were superior to that of Levi, the priestly tribe under the Old Law. Hebrews 7:12 puts it this way—
"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law."
The priesthood of Jesus was the death of the Old Law. Hebrews 7:18-22 makes the connection this way—
"For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him, The Lord sware and will not repent himself, thou are a priest for ever)9 by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant."
"But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second," Hebrews 8:6-7.
In Hebrews 10, after clearly saying that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, and that God has no pleasure in animal sacrifices, it says in verses 9-14—
"then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet."
We not only understand that Jesus took away the Old Covenant by His priesthood, we also understand that the priesthood came first, which then made possible the taking away of the Old Law. This is just what Hebrews 7:12 say—:
"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law."
The priesthood was changed first, then the law was changed. The sacrifice depend-ed as much on Jesus' priesthood as it depended on His death on the cross. Yes, but what about Colossians 2:13-14 and Ephesians 2:13,15?
"And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross."
"But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ ... having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby," Ephesians 2:13,15.
Both Ephesians and Colossians mention the cross as the element whereby the law was abolished.
The word "cross" is used figuratively in these and some other passages. Jesus did not literally take the Old Law and with a literal hammer and nails attach it to the literal wooden beams on which He was literally crucified. The "Cross" is a symbol of the sacrifice but there was much more to that sacrifice than the literal crucifixion. Remember, if Jesus had just died on the cross only, there could have been no remission of sins and so no change in the law, I Corinthians 15:16-19. The same is true in such passages as I Peter 2:24—
"...who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed."
These figures of speech are called synecdoche, meaning that a part is given to stand for the whole. Thus cross, blood, body, death as well as other terms may, in some places, stand for everything that was necessary to accomplish reconciliation. Many terms in the Bible are used both literally and figuratively.
Not only did the high priesthood of Jesus take away the Old Law, it established the New. Hebrews 7:18-22 says—
"For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him, The Lord sware and will not repent himself, Thou art a priest for ever); by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant."
"But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second." Hebrews 8:6-7.
"...how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth," Hebrews 9:14-18.
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God ... But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter," Romans 7:4,6.
There could never have been an end of the Old Law and the institution of a New Testament without the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and priesthood of Jesus. But, the Old did not end until the New began!
The Perfect High Priest
One of the reasons for God the Word to come into the world as Jesus Christ was in order for Him to function as high priest. This is stated early in the book of Hebrews,
"Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." Hebrews 2:17.
As God, Jesus knew everything about man because He designed and created him in His own image and had "put up" with man for several thousand years. However, He had not experienced before what it was to be human. Note—
"Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," Hebrews 4:14-15—
"For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh the honor unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron. So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," Hebrews 5:1-6.
Presented here are both likenesses and differences between the high priest under the Law of Moses and Jesus as our high priest. We have seen the foreshadowing of the sacrificial system under the law, along with the function of the high priest and the substance that produced that shadow. Let's consider the likenesses and then the differences.
First, Hebrews 10:5 says that a body was prepared for God the Word, the "me" of the passage. We have already seen Hebrews 2:17; He was made in every way like His brethren. His was a fully functioning human body. He lived for thirty-three years among men like men live and had human experiences.
Second, high priests were taken from among men to perform for (huper, on behalf of) men toward God.
Third, the high priest offered gifts and sacrifices for sin. Hebrews 8:3 says,
"For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary this high priest also have somewhat to offer."
Fourth, the high priest bore gently with the ignorant and erring, having compassion. Of course, Jesus was compassionate before He came into the world; He came into the world because He was compassionate.
At the same time, there are some very important differences between the high priest under the Law and Jesus as our high priest. Let's notice the differences now.
First, Jesus was God come in the flesh. There has never been nor will be a man like He was, both God and man at the same time. He was thus the perfect high priest, the perfect mediator between man and God. He spanned the chasm between the two. Before His coming, the high priest under the Law was a man only, just a man, and could not do what Jesus did. Earthly priests could only offer animal sacrifices; Jesus offered Himself.
Second, according to His human lineage, Jesus was of the tribe of Judah instead of Levi, the priestly tribe of Israel. That barred Him from even functioning as a high priest under the Law, Hebrews 8:4-5.
Third, the sacrifice for sins that Jesus offered was far superior to that of the Law. Hebrews 8:1-3 says—
"Now in the things which we are saying the chief point is this: We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that this high priest also have somewhat to offer."
Every priest has to offer something or he wouldn't be a high priest and he must also have a place to offer it. This is the main function of his office. The plural form of gifts and sacrifices of the earthly high priest contrasts here with the singular offering Jesus made. Further, the present tense verb referring to the gifts and sacrifices the earthly high priests "offer" means their gifts and sacrifices continued, were repeated year after year. This contrasts with the aorist tense verb of the "offering" of Jesus. The aorist verb refers to the single act of offering that Jesus made. What Jesus had to offer was not an animal sacrifice but rather Himself, which is exactly what Hebrews 7:27 says—
"who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his owns sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself."
Our high priest offered Himself, His blood for the purification of our sins. There is no longer any need for sacrifices or gifts to God as things were under the Law of Moses because His one sacrifice ended the need for such sacrifices and gifts. As Hebrews 1:3 says, "when He had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of God." That does not mean His priesthood ended with the offering of His own blood. He continues to be our intercessor. Hebrews 7:22-25 says—
"And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing: but he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Jesus still operates on our behalf as He reigns as priest on His throne, though we don't know all of the ways He intercedes for us. Romans 8:34 tells us—
"It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Fourth, the earthly priests offered gifts and sacrifices for their own sins as well as the sins of the people. Jesus did not do that because he had no sins. He did not need to have an offering for Himself. The statement of Hebrews 4:15, "without sin" means "apart from sin." John 14:30 says, "the prince of this world cometh and he hath nothing in me." Jesus was the proper high priest for us, "holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens," Hebrews 7:26. He was without blemish, had no contamination, though He came in the likeness "of flesh of sin," Romans 8:3. I Peter 2:22 says that He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
Fifth, though Jesus could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, Hebrews 4:15, He had none, Himself. Note—
"For the law appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore," Hebrews 7:28.
The word "infirmity," asthenea, is found in both of these passages and refers to weakness. In whatever sense that weakness might apply, Jesus had no weaknesses as the earthly priests had. See other listings in the Godhead section of this website.
Reconciliation was accomplished by the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and priestly function of Jesus in heaven. It took all of that. Each step in its proper order was necessary. Words such as cross, death, blood, body, etc. are used by synecdoche at times to stand for all that was necessary for this sacrifice.