April 22 – Purposeful Suffering

The forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever.

Hebrews 6:20

Christ’s purpose in gathering up our sins on the cross and enduring the darkness of death was to open the way to God. The apostle Peter said that Christ died “that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). God demonstrated that truth symbolically by ripping the Temple veil from top to bottom, opening the Holy of Holies to immediate access by all worshipers (Matt. 27:51). As priests, all believers now may come into the presence of God (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 4:16).

The Greek verb translated as “He might bring” (1 Pet. 3:18) states the purpose of Jesus’ actions. The verb was often used when someone was being introduced. The noun form of the word refers to the one making the introduction. In Jesus’ day, officials in the ancient courts controlled the access to the king. Once convinced of a person’s right of access, the official would introduce that person into the king’s presence. And that’s exactly the function Jesus performs for us now. As He said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He came to lead us into the Father’s presence.[1]

God gave Abraham the security of His Person, His purpose, and His pledge. All these He also gives to us who have believed in Christ. But He gives us yet another, His Priest. As our High Priest, Jesus serves as the anchor of our souls, the One who will forever keep us from drifting away from God.

Jesus’ entering within the veil signifies His entering the Holy of Holies, where the sacrifice of atonement was made. Under the Old Covenant it was made yearly by the high priest. Under the New is has been made once for all time by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Our anchored soul is, in God’s mind, already secure within the veil, secure within His eternal sanctuary. When Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, he did not leave after the sacrifice as did the Aaronic high priests, but “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). In other words, Jesus remains there forever as Guardian of our souls. Such absolute security is almost incomprehensible. Not only are our souls anchored within the impregnable, inviolable heavenly sanctuary, but our Savior, Jesus Christ, stands guard over them as well! How can the Christian’s security be described as anything but eternal? Truly we can trust God and His Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, with our souls. That is good cause to come all the way to salvation and to enjoy its security.[2]

6:20 Jesus has gone into the inner shrine also as our forerunner. His presence there insures the ultimate entrance of all who belong to Him. It is no exaggeration to say that the simplest believer on earth is as certain of heaven as the saints who are already there.

D. Anderson-Berry writes:

The word translated “forerunner” is found nowhere else in the New Testament. This expresses an idea never contemplated in the Levitical economy, for the high priest entered the holiest only as a representative. He entered where none could follow. But our Forerunner is a pledge that where He is, we also shall be. As Forerunner He (1) announced our future arrival there; (2) took possession of heaven’s glories on our behalf; and (3) has gone to be able to bid His people welcome when they come, and to present them before the Majesty of heaven.

The fourth figure is that of High Priest. Our Lord has become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. His eternal priesthood guarantees our eternal preservation. Just as surely as we have been reconciled to God by His death, so surely are we saved by His life as our Priest at God’s right hand (Rom. 5:10).

This mention of Jesus as High Priest in the order of Melchizedek reminds us that this subject was interrupted at 5:10 when the author digressed on the extended warning against apostasy. Now he is ready to resume his theme that Christ’s high priesthood is superior to Aaron’s. He has skillfully returned to the main flow of argument.[3]

20 The metaphor of the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle leads to a further extension of the imagery, and this time one that brings us right back to the main theme of Christ as our high priest. The sanctuary is not just the place where the “anchor” is fixed but also the place where our high priest has gone in “on our behalf,” as the OT high priest went in each year on the Day of Atonement on behalf of the rest of the people to make atonement for their sins. He is identified again by his human name, Jesus, as he was also in 3:1 and 4:14 when his high priestly office was introduced (and cf. the language of “going through” into heaven in 4:14). But unlike the OT high priests, whose privilege of entering the sanctuary was shared with no one else, our high priest has gone in as the “forerunner” (so rightly TNIV; NIV, “who went before us”), a term not used elsewhere in the NT but used in secular Greek especially for the advance guard of an army; it picks up the theme of the “pioneer” in 2:10, and especially as it will be developed in 12:2, where Jesus has run the race ahead of us. Where Jesus has gone, he prepares the way for his people to follow (cf. Jn 14:2–3); and in 10:19–20, we will be exhorted to do so. And his right to enter the sanctuary derives from his status, declared by God’s oath, as a “high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Thus we are brought right back into the “difficult” argument begun at 4:14 and abandoned at 5:10, and this time the author will have no hesitation in developing his thesis from Psalm 110:4. It all hinges on the mysterious figure of Melchizedek.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 127). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 168–169). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2177). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 89). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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